Larkins powers North Carolina into Final FourMar 28, 2007 - 5:44 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- North Carolina gets a chance to finish what it couldn't last season in the NCAA Tournament.
Erlana Larkins had 29 points and 10 rebounds as the top-seeded Tar Heels earned a return trip to the Final Four with an 84-72 victory over second-seeded Purdue in the Dallas Regional championship game.
Ivory Latta scored 21 points for North Carolina (33-4), which will face Tennessee in a matchup of No. 1 seeds Sunday in Cleveland.
"We are very thankful for the win and I would like to thank Erlana and Ivory, they had a lot to do with it," Tar Heels coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I call Erlana our warrior and Ivory is our little general. Overall it was a great defensive effort and it was such an honor to have beaten Purdue, because they are such a great team and we are glad to be going back to another Final Four."
That will be a rematch of an early-season regular-season game, which North Carolina won, 70-57, on its home floor on December 3.
The Boilermakers (31-6) made repeated runs at the Tar Heels but couldn't contain Larkins, who finished 12-of-16 from the field and scored 21 points in the second half.
"She's a great great post player and I'm confident every time I get her the ball," Latta said of Larkins. "I might get in trouble watching her 'cause you never know what she's gonna do next. ... She did a fantastic job tonight and I know she's gonna continue to do well for us."
Larkins set the tone for North Carolina, which shot a blistering 59 percent (17-of-29) in the second half and enjoyed a staggering 52-28 edge in points in the paint.
"They're great post players down low, they're real physical and tough down there," Purdue's Erin Lawless said. "It was just a matter of defense and I wasn't in position a few times. You just have to give credit to them. They're fantastic down low."
A 12-0 first-half run that Larkins capped with a layup made it 29-22 with 3:07 left en route to a 35-28 lead at the break.
Trailing, 64-52, with 8:00 left, Purdue roared back behind star guard Katie Gearlds, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers in an 8-0 spurt that cut the deficit to 64-60 with 6:48 to play.
"Katie is so good," Hatchell said. "We had a lead early on and all of the sudden we were only up by a couple of points, because she is so dynamic as a player."
The Tar Heels had a quick response as Larkins converted a three-point play to ignite a 7-0 run in 1:19 to boost the lead back to 71-60 with 4:40 to play. Purdue got no closer than six points thereafter.
Gearlds scored 30 points and Lindsey Wisdom-Hylton added 14 for the Boilermakers, who finished 8-of-20 from the arc.
- DALLAS REGIONAL
NCAA WOMENS BB DALLAS REGIONAL
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
PURDUE (2) 28 44 72
NORTH CAROLINA (1) 35 49 84 FINAL
Mar 27 11:04 PM
- DALLAS REGIONAL
NCAA WOMENS BB (2) PURDUE 28
(1) NORTH CAROLINA 35 HALFTIME
Mar 27 9:50 PM
- No. 6 seed Oklahoma tops No. 11 Purdue 61-45 in NCAA Mar 19
- Purdue-Oklahoma Preview Mar 18
- Powers leads No. 19 Michigan St. women past Purdue 65-64 Mar 4
- Purdue women top Penn State, 70-59; face Michigan State Mar 3
- Pitt beats UNC 82-72 in ACC women's tournament Mar 2
- Bulgak powers No. 10 Florida State women to win over UNC Feb 14
- No. 5 Maryland never trails in 73-59 win over Purdue Feb 11
- No. 13 Louisville women overtake North Carolina 78-60 Feb 4
- Walker-Kimbrough scores 41, No. 5 Maryland women beat Purdue Feb 2
- Hatchell to sit 2 games for referee contact, NCAA violation Jan 29
- Powers, No. 18 Michigan State women beat Purdue 68-56 Jan 27
- Mitchell scores 27 to lift No. 5 Ohio State over Purdue Jan 17