Down by 13 points midway through the first half, Wake Forest shifted its defense to key on James Worthy and Michael Jordan, North Carolina's two leading scorers. The result was a 55-48 upset of the previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Tar Heels.
North Carolina played without star center and second-leading scorer Sam Perkins, who became ill at the pregame meal and was sent to the infirmary with a 103-degree temperature caused by a virus. Without Perkins, the Tar Heels did not have the inside strength needed to overcome the taller Demon Deacons.
"Of course, we practice without him (Perkins) in the lineup, but we're certainly a better team with him in there," said Carolina Coach Dean Smith.
Carolina was 13-0 coming into the game. The loss dropped the Tar Heels into a tie, at 4-1, with Virginia and Wake for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Wake repeatedly got the ball inside to 6-foot-11 center Jim Johnstone, who scored eight points in each half and had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Wake Coach Carl Tacy called a timeout with 9:24 left in the first half and his team trailing, 22-9, and altered his 2-3 zone to key on Worthy down low and Jordan outside. The 6-9 Worthy, who by then had 13 points, got one more field goal the rest of the game. Jordan did not score in the second half.
Meanwhile, Wake was getting good play at both ends of the court from the inside-outside combination of Johnstone and guard Danny Young.
Young, a sophomore point guard, took command in the second half with Carolina up, 36-31, and 14:08 left. He got eight points and Johnstone six during an 8 1/2-minute stretch in which Wake outscored Carolina, 14-5, and took a 45-41 lead.
Young finished with 12 points, six steals and five assists. Carolina had 13 turnovers in the second half.
Still, Carolina was very much in the game when Black made a jumper with 2:33 to go to tie the score at 45.
Holding a 47-46 lead, Wake spread its offense to run some time off the clock. "We had the lead and we just wanted to get out of there, that's all," said Young.
But Jordan stole the ball from forward John Toms and headed downcourt with teammate Jim Braddock on a two-on-one break. Jordan attempted to pass back to Braddock and lost control of the ball. Johnstone picked it up and Wake moved back upcourt, its one-point lead intact and barely a minute left.
From there it was a free throw contest, with Wake making eight in a row to secure its 12th victory of the season against three losses.