After Georgia, helped by some uncanny outside shooting, had shocked defending NCAA champion North Carolina and after his teammates had cut down the net on one basket in the Carrier Dome, Bulldogs' reserve Derrick Floyd sat on the rim and lifted a homemade sign:
"Give that Dawg a Bone."
Better yet, give them credit.
These are hardly underDawgs any more. Their 82-77 victory in the East Regional final today advanced the Bulldogs to the national semifinals against North Carolina State Saturday at 3:40 p.m. in Albuquerque.
Georgia is two victories away from doing what only one other team has accomplished in NCAA history--winning the national championship in its first appearance. Stanford did that in 1942.
And they did it by handing North Carolina its first loss in a regional final or semifinal.
In a quiet North Carolina locker room, Eddie Fogler, a Tar Heel assistant coach, said it as simply as anyone: "They were good; the better team won."
Last year Georgia had Dominique Wilkins; this year they have a team.
Losing Coach Dean Smith, after being denied a third straight trip to the final four: "They played the underdog role quite well. They are a much better team than with Wilkins last year. They have much better shot selection."
For a long time, the Tar Heels were hardly defending against those outside shots. And by the time they finally realized Georgia wasn't going to stop making "those rainbows," as North Carolina all-America Sam Perkins called them, the Bulldogs spread out their offense and utilized their exceptional quickness.
So North Carolina fouled. Smith was forced to call a timeout with 12 1/2 minutes to play, the first time Georgia spread out and conquered North Carolina's defense for a six-foot jump shot by guard Vern Fleming and a 53-48 lead. Smith could see what was coming.
"You don't want them to get a layup, but you want to gamble and double team. You'd rather have them shoot from 15 feet than a layup," Smith said. "In the stretch run, if we had kept scoring, it would have been very interesting. Then the foul line would look longer than 15 feet away."
But with successive misses by frustrated inside players Perkins and Brad Daugherty, Georgia had a 57-48 lead after a 20-foot jump shot by guard Gerald Crosby (17 points) and a fast-break layup from Fleming (17 points). The lead reached 13 points and did not go under 10 until the final 45 seconds.
"We just played basketball," said forward James Banks, describing the school-record 24th victory this season (against nine losses). "We can compete against anybody on any given night."
They played the most fundamental basketball. They also made 56 percent of their field goal attempts, including 26 of 38 successful shots in the stretch that took them to a 63-52 lead with a little more than eight minutes to play.
There were still more than 18 minutes to play when center Terry Fair was charged with his fourth foul and went to the bench. At the time, Georgia led, 41-40. So Richard Corhen, 6-foot-6 sophomore and the Bulldogs' only experienced inside reserve, entered the game.
"I was scared," said Banks. "But I wasn't going to show it to the rest of my teammates."
Corhen's immediate results didn't immediately ease his anxiety, as he had two turnovers within the first five possessions he played. "I was nervous, but I had confidence in myself," Corhen said. "I wasn't trying to do anything at first; I just wanted to get in the flow, then create something. The couple turnovers didn't shake me up. I knew if I played hard, something good would happen."
And it did. Corhen scored seven points, had three rebounds, blocked two shots and was superb in the 1-2-2 zone defense that frustrated Perkins and Daugherty so much.
Hugh Durham, Georgia's coach who now is 2-0 against Smith in NCAA tournament play (having won a national semifinal game over him while at Florida State in 1972), said he "really leaned on Corhen in practice last week, because we wanted him to assert himself."
Corhen, who has played more than twice as many minutes as any other Georgia reserve, seemed unfazed by today's notoriety. "I've had better games throughout the year and I've played a lot more minutes," he said.
Banks, who led his team with 20 points, was the key man in the suffocating defense. Playing the point of the zone, his job was to keep the ball from going inside and giving the two inside players help on Michael Jordan, North Carolina's all-America swing man. Jordan was unable to roam the base line for backdoor and alley-oop passes, as he did in the first half when he scored 16 of his game-high 26 points.
In the end, Georgia's ability to make the open shot sent North Carolina (28-8) home a loser for the first time in nine regional tournaments.
"The book on playing Georgia is to zone them. They're not a good shooting team," Smith said. "Then the second half, they hit two or three long bombs and I said, 'No more zone.' "
Banks disagreed with Smith. "That's inaccurate . . . Gerald can shoot the lights out, and so can the other guys."
You can give these Dawgs a bone, but not an open jump.