NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- An early onslaught by Louisville star Angel McCoughtry was not enough to derail North Carolina's bid for a third-straight trip to the Final Four.
LaToya Pringle had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and the top-seeded Tar Heels climbed out of an 18-point hole in a 78-74 victory over the fourth-seeded Cardinals on Saturday.
The victory extended the Tar Heels' winning streak to 16 and placed them in the regional final on Monday night, when they'll play the winner of Saturday afternoon's game between LSU and Oklahoma State.
McCoughtry finished with 35 points and 13 rebounds, but was unable to dominate in the second half as she had in the first, when she scored 21 of her points.
Cetera DeGraffenreid scored 13 for North Carolina (33-2). Rashanda McCants added 12 points and Jessica Breland 11.
Candyce Bingham had 17 points and 20 rebounds for Louisville (26-10). Chauntise Wright scored 13 for the Cardinals.
Louisville led 48-37 after Wright's basket inside opened scoring in the second half. But the Tar Heels quickly turned the tide with an 11-1 run that included Pringle's two baskets inside and a pair of free throws after Louisville coach Jeff Walz was whistled for a technical foul as he yelled at the officials.
McCants' baseline floater pulled the Tar Heels to 49-48, and several possessions later, Heather Claytor's 3-pointer from the left corner tied it at 53.
Louisville went back ahead on a pair of baseline drives by McCoughtry before Breland scored six points during an 8-0 run that gave North Carolina its first lead since early in the first half, 61-57. Those baskets began a 20-6 run that gave the Tar Heels a 73-63 lead with 2:27 to go.
Bingham hit a pair of late 3s to help Louisville close to 76-74 with 29 seconds to go, but Pringle, who had missed four of her previous six free throws, made two straight with 26 seconds to go and Louisville did not score again.
North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell had four players prepared to rotate defensively to McCoughtry as necessary. But in the first half, nothing could stop Louisville's leading scorer, who came in averaging 23.5 points.
McCoughtry had 21 points and seven rebounds in the first half, hitting two 3-pointers, several midrange jumpers and forcing her way inside for driving layups and putbacks.
Bingham had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the opening half in helping Louisville build a lead a 37-19 lead.
North Carolina at first seemed flustered by Louisville's swarming zone defense, which forced 13 first-half turnovers.
In the last five minutes of the first half, the Tar Heels began to close the gap with six straight points, capped by DeGraffenreid's floater in the lane that cut the score to 42-32.
Breland's jumper after she pounced on a loose ball in the lane cut Louisville's lead to 46-37 at halftime.