UVa Edged By No. 3 North Carolina, 90-82
Charlottesville, Va. — Lyndra Littles scored 22 points to lead Virginia, but No. 3 North Carolina was able to hold off the Cavaliers, 90-82, Friday night.
Erlana Larkins had 21 points, 18 rebounds and a key late steal for UNC, as the Cavaliers closed to within two on Monica Wright’s layup with 1:58 to play and had a chance to tie it or go ahead after Abby Robertson drew a charge on Larkins.
But Larkins, playing with heavy padding on the left hand she broke in December, stepped in front of Lyndra Littles’ pass for her third steal of the night. Seconds later, LaToya Pringle’s short jumper doubled the Tar Heels’ advantage.
Pringle led all scorers with 28 points and added 10 rebounds as North Carolina (23-3, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its 11th in a row in the series.
The Cavaliers (18-7, 6-3) had been off to their best league start since the 2004-05 season, also the last time they reached the NCAA tournament. Hoping for a big victory to boost their chances of returning to the field this year, they led until Rashanda McCants made consecutive baskets early in the second half to put UNC ahead 43-41.
Virginia closed to within four again with 21 seconds to play on Sharne Zoll’s three-point play, but the Tar Heels clinched it at the free-throw line.
Lyndra Littles led Virginia with 22 points, Aisha Mohammed had 16 and nine rebounds and Monica Wright scored 16. Mohammed and Wright both fouled out.
Zoll had six assists, leaving her 16 shy of Dawn Staley’s school career record.
Once the Tar Heels went ahead, Virginia had to fight to stay close.
North Carolina’s lead grew to 64-58 on Italee Lucas’ off-the-dribble 3-pointer with 11:45 to play, but Mohammed, limited to just 10 second-half minutes by foul trouble, cut the lead to 71-68 on an inside basket with 5:37 to go.
The Tar Heels pushed their lead back to 81-74 with 2:48 to play before a 5-0 run, capped by Wright’s basket, pulled the Cavaliers within two.
Virginia, which led by as many as 11 in the first half, has lost just four times in its last 16 games: to then-No. 1 Connecticut on Dec. 5, and twice to No. 4 Maryland.