Dean Smith, who has lived by the four-corners for so long, died by it today.
Virginia stormed back from a 14-point deficit to trail by five with 8:30 to play. That's when Smith ordered the four-corners. Virginia showed it no respect and outscored North Carolina, 12-2, and the unbeaten Cavaliers (11-0) went on to a 63-57 victory. The Cavs are 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and have a 16-game winning streak over two seasons, longest among Division I colleges.
"Eight minutes is a long time to play four-corners," and Virginia's Ralph Sampson, who came up with the big plays in the Virginia comeback, even though his 14 points and 11 rebounds were below his season averages.
Smith, who usually goes to the four-corners as an offensive weapon, said he was forced into it today, "because Virginia was coming.
"They were catching us and we thought by making them chase us for a while it might take their legs away and they'd start missing. I was wrong."
Virginia, which shot only 32 percent in the first half, scored on its final 13 possessions. The Cavaliers had the ball 25 times in the second half and scored 20 times.
"They scored 1.32 points a possession against us," Smith said. "That's an all-time record. They didn't win because we went into the four-corners; they won because they scored every time they had the ball."
North Carolina put a triangle around Ralph Sampson, denying him the ball, but giving Virginia open 18-footers. They wouldn't fall and the Cavaliers fell behind by 11 at halftime.
The same shots that clanked off the rim in the first half, found the bottom of the net in the second.
Lee Raker was one for four in the first half and eight for 10 in the second. Four of his second-half baskets were from beyond 18 feet.
As if Raker finding the range wasn't enough, Virginia Coach Terry Holland turned to 6-foot freshman Othell Wilson, from Gar-Field High in Woodbridge, and he made three straight 20-footers that cut Carolina's lead to 49-44 with 8:30 to play.
That's when Smith ordered the four-corners and that's when the Heels got stuck in the tar.
They held the ball for 97 seconds before James Worthy was called for an offensive foul.
Raker scored on a 20-footer to cut the lead to three.
Al Wood got that basket back on a move in the lane, but Wilson made another 20-footer from the top of the circle to make the score 51-48, UNC.
Virginia forced a five-second call on Carolina's next possession. Jeff Jones controlled the ensuing tap against Mike Pepper and Raker once again made a 20-footer to cut Carolina's lead to 51-50 with 3:52 remaining.
Then Sampson dominated.
After Worthy fumbled a pass out of bounds, Sampson tapped in a Raker shot, hurried downcourt to block a Worthy hook and then made a turnaround baseline jumper at the other end and Virginia was on top, 54-51.
Sam Perkins fumbled the ball away on North Carolina's next possession and then fouled Sampson with 1:34 left. Sampson made both free throws for a 56-51 Virginia lead and that was it for the Tar Heels.
The Cavs will put their 16-game streak on the line against Maryland Wednesday night at Cole Field House.
Today's game was Virginia's first major test of the season and, according to Raker, "a very big game.
"This game showed we have a lot of character, something people have questioned about us for a long time."