North Carolina erased a nine-point deficit in the final 13 minutes of today's ACC game against host Virginia and stole a 65-61 victory over the Cavaliers before 9,000 at University Hall.
North Carolina (12-1, 3-0 in the ACC), getting 16 points from guard Kenny Smith and fine efforts from 6-foot-11 inside men Brad Daugherty (12 points, eight rebounds) and Warren Martin (11, four), gained its second straight come-from-behind victory. The Tar Heels, trailing by three points with 23 seconds left, beat Maryland Wednesday night, 75-74.
Virginia (7-7, 0-4) wasted a fine effort by Olden Polynice, who had 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, and Tom Sheehey (15 points).
Carolina benefited again from poor free throw shooting by the opposition to win. Maryland's Adrian Branch and Keith Gatlin missed critical foul shots down the stretch Wednesday, and today it was Sheehey's turn.
He missed the front end of bonus situations with 1:32 and 1:17 to play with the teams tied at 59-59, and Buzz Peterson's long jump shot with 59 seconds remaining gave the Tar Heels the lead for good. Virginia's Darrick Simms missed with 33 seconds left, and Carolina was home free.
Carolina led by eight points in the first half before good outside shooting by freshman Mel Kennedy (10 points) and inside scoring by Polynice enabled the Cavaliers to charge to a 32-31 advantage at intermission.
"Polynice was having a good day and we had to switch defenses to try to stop him," said North Carolina Coach Dean Smith, who has beaten Virginia six straight times. "We played a lot more zone that we wanted to. I know our three big people had 14 fouls, and we can't afford to have that too often."
Taking advantage of Carolina's foul problems, the Cavaliers began getting open shots, especially Simms. The freshman guard from Flint Hill Preparatory School in Oakton hit three straight jumpers, Sheehey scored on a 15-foot turnaround jumper and Polynice made two free throws to send Virginia to a 46-37 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining.
"We had some spurts when we took control and then we let it get away," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "But I couldn't ask any more from our players. They played as hard as they could against a team like North Carolina. North Carolina got the breaks today."
The Tar Heels forced many of those breaks. With Smith running the show, Carolina threw an assortment of trapping defenses against freshman point guard John Johnson. Johnson, starting in place of Tim Mullen (muscle spasms in his back), did a fine job until the pressure increased considerably down the stretch.
Following Virginia turnovers, Curtis Hunter made two free throws and scored on a breakaway to make it 46-41. Another Cavalier mistake resulted in a long basket by Steve Hale, and the Tar Heels trailed by three with 11 minutes to go.
Virginia, which outrebounded the Tar Heels, 37-18, had a four-point lead when a double team by Smith and Hale against Johnson forced a 10-second violation.
Daugherty cut the deficit to two with a pair of free throws. Following a missed shot, the senior center was fouled again and made the first of two shots from the line. On the errant second attempt, Hunter outfought several players for the rebound and stepped on a couple of fallen bodies as he drove the base line for a layup to put Carolina ahead, 52-51, with 5:42 left.
North Carolina maintained a three-point lead until Martin was called for his fifth foul for elbowing Polynice. Polynice's two free throws pulled Virginia to 58-57 with 3:32 left.
"I was just protecting myself," said Martin. "I saw this orange-and-white jersey coming at me and I put my arm up."
After Hale's free throw gave his team a two-point lead, Sheehey's jump shot tied the game at 59 with two minutes to play.
Carolina missed two scoring chances but Sheehey, fouled twice after the plays, missed front ends of one-and-one situations both times, the second with 1:17 left.
Carolina worked for the good shot, and when Virginia sagged back to prevent a lob to Daugherty, Peterson made a 17-footer for a 61-59 lead with 59 seconds to play. It was Peterson's only basket of the game.
Carolina used the same sagging zone and with time running out on the 45-second shot clock, Simms missed an 18-footer.
"I thought it was going in," said Simms, who finished with 10 points. "Whoever was open was supposed to take the shot. I got a good one; it just missed."
Hunter got behind Virginia's press and dunked one for a four-point lead with 16 seconds to play. Simms' basket with two seconds left made it a two-point game again. But Virginia's attempt to draw the offensive foul failed and Smith made two free throws to finish Virginia.