Pringle, Larkins carry UNC to 2 OT win

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - LaToya Pringle wasn't going to let a bloody lip stop her.

The North Carolina forward took a shot in the face in the second half, requiring her to change jerseys, but came back to finish with a career-high 31 points that propelled the third-ranked Tar Heels to a 97-86 double-overtime win against No. 4 Maryland.

Twelve of Pringle's 31 came in the second overtime as she and front-court mate Erlana Larkins owned the inside against the Terps.

"They're our warriors," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "I just kept telling them to go to them."

Larkins finished with 25 points and 18 rebounds, including 13 on the offensive end.

And the duo's tough inside play made it hard for the Terrapins to keep players on the floor.

Laura Harper fouled out midway through the first overtime and Jade Perry followed in the second overtime.

"As you can see from the stats, we didn't do well against them," Maryland center Crystal Langhorne said. "It was really tough without Laura and Jade."

Larkins and Pringle were efficient from the start, scoring 18 combined points on 9-for-13 shooting in the first half, which was huge in UNC going to the locker room with a 37-33 lead.

But then, Pringle took an accidental shot in the mouth from Perry and had to leave the game because of blood on her jersey -- not to mention coming out of her mouth.

Pringle, who usually wears No. 30, returned with a nameless No. 55 jersey and picked up right where she left off.

As she sat on the bench before that, though, she watched her team's narrow lead turn into a deficit.

And all she could think of was how the Tar Heels blew an 11-point lead at Connecticut in their last game, turning a potential upset of the nation's No. 1 team into a heartbreaking loss.

"After the Connecticut loss, a lot of us came to practice with a different mentality," Pringle said. "We knew we lost because we didn't compete and didn't play smart at the end."

Despite what might be considered an overall lack of experience, the Tar Heels certainly have two veterans in Pringle and Larkins, and it's hardly a coincidence that they're the ones who put the Tar Heels on their backs.

"We had to give it all we had," said Larkins, who has been playing with a broken hand.

The Tar Heels had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Rashanda McCants (who came a rebound and two assists shy of a triple-double) missed a 3-pointer and Pringle's follow shot rolled in and out.

At the end of the first overtime, it was Maryland that had the chance for a game-winning shot.

But Kristi Toliver, who finished with 20 points and a career-high 14 rebounds despite a two-point first half, couldn't get a clean look for her last-second shot.

That set the stage for Pringle and Larkins to finish the job they started in the second half and provide the Tar Heels with a win they definitely needed to build confidence coming off the UConn loss.

"Those two," Hatchell said, "I just don't want to let them graduate."

Player of the Game:
This one is easy. As imporessive as Larkins' numbers were, Pringle was an absolute game-changer for the Tar Heels when she was on the floor. While she was being treated for the facial injury, the Heels looked listless on the boards. When she was back out there, UNC was a different team. Reliable at the line and tough on the glass, Pringle was the difference for North Carolina.

Play of the Game:
You don't usually see forwards running the break, but in the second half, Larkins did just that and dished to Pringle, who got the layup and the foul. Her free throw tied the game at 71 with 46.5 seconds to go.

Quote of the Game:
"Obviously, it's a little rare, but I don't know that we were tired in the second overtime. I thought our energy was good. You just hope you're not going to have to play every game for 50 minutes."
-Maryland assistant coach Daron Park, on playing back-to-back double-overtime games.

Up Next:
For Maryland: The Terps head home to host a below-.500 Miami team on Thursday.

For UNC: The Tar Heels hit the road but don't have to go far, traveling down I-40 to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest.

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