When you're undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation, everybody is gunning for you. Tonight, top-ranked North Carolina got hit with both barrels as the Virginia Cavaliers won going away, 86-73, in front of 9,000 at University Hall.
"It was a team effort and we're deliriously happy," Virginia Coach Terry Holland said. "When you're in that spot (No. 1), and we've been in that spot, people are going to shoot for you."
The Tar Heels, now 21-1, 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, had beaten Virginia (14-5, 4-3) seven straight times.
Virginia never trailed. The Tar Heels, who were behind by 45-32 at halftime, never got closer than five points and were trailing by 19 with 56 seconds to go.
"I can't see us playing too much better than that," Holland said. "But I'd like to think we didn't put our whole season out on the floor tonight."
North Carolina came into the game already having equaled its best start under Coach Dean Smith. The Tar Heels had won their first 21 games in the 1983-84 season before losing at Arkansas. The other "best starts" for the Tar Heels were in 1924 when they went 26-0 and were voted national champions, and in 1957 when they won 32 without a loss and took the NCAA title.
But tonight they were simply outplayed, as Smith put it.
"All in all, we got beat in every way, and we congratulate Virginia," Smith said. "Terry had them well prepared and they were waiting for us.
"Maybe I didn't have our team prepared," Smith said, "or maybe they just beat us."
Center Olden Polynice led Virginia with 19 points and 10 rebounds. But one of the keys was Virginia's balanced scoring. John Johnson had 13 points, Mel Kennedy and Richard Morgan had 12 each, and Tom Calloway and Tom Sheehey had 11 each. Sheehey also had 10 rebounds.
Brad Daugherty led North Carolina with 21 points and Kenny Smith had 20. Smith had only six points in the first half when the Cavaliers took control.
Virginia dominated by going to the boards. The Cavaliers outrebounded North Carolina by 21-10 in the first half and by 44-31 for the game. Virginia finished with 21 offensive rebounds.
"(Mel) Kennedy did a great job (six rebounds, four offensive). He was tough to box out," said Daugherty. "Their guards do a good job of going to the boards."
"That's what the coaches stressed, that we needed guard rebounding," said Morgan, the 6-foot-3 freshman guard who had three offensive rebounds. "We needed to rebound, come up with the loose ball and try to hustle and be aggressive."
Polynice said, "Carolina's defense is so spread out, they can't all go to the boards."
With Virginia getting so many offensive rebounds, North Carolina had trouble running its fast break.
"They beat us on the boards, and by our count, they got 14 points on second shots in the first half," Smith said. "You can't run the fast break when they get the second shot and score. The fast break doesn't work as well when you take it out under the basket."
Virginia led, 49-32, after Polynice and Sheehey each scored to open the second half. But then the Cavaliers missed six straight shots. The Tar Heels went on a 12-0 run to make it 49-44 with 15:06 left.
"North Carolina is a great basketball team. We knew they were going to make a run at us," Holland said. "It would have been easy for our guys to fold when they scored 12 straight points, but we stayed aggressive for the full 40 minutes."
North Carolina would get no closer. After Steve Hale hit two free throws to cut the Virginia lead to 60-52 with 10:02 left, the Cavaliers outscored the Tar Heels by 12-4 over the next 6 1/2 minutes.
North Carolina took the loss philsophically, for the most part. When asked if it might be better to lose a game now, as opposed to later in the season or in the NCAA tournament, Smith said, "Lose one? I'm surprised we got this far along with out losing one. And I'm surprised at Memphis State going this far. We had a chance to lose up at Maryland, against Duke, and Marquette. I thought Georgia Tech was a close game. They all seemed close. Maybe they all will be from here on out."
"It's just one game," Daugherty said. "This is just one game and we have to get ready for another one on Saturday (against Clemson). Next time, they have to come to our place. It's a great learning experience for the younger guys. You hate to lose, but it's something you just have to build on." District of Columbia 66, Point Park 65
In Pittsburgh, Johnny Jones scored 21 points and blocked the potential game-winning shot and Lyndon DeBellotte scored 18 points.
UDC (11-7) trailed by 63-62 with 4:34 left before DeBellotte scored the next four points to give the Firebirds a 66-63 lead with 2:43 to go.
Tony Merriweather scored with 31 seconds left to bring Point Park (10-11) to within 66-65, and the hosts had a chance to win after UDC's Charlie Gantt missed a free throw on the Firebirds' ensuing possession. But Jones blocked a shot by the Pioneers' Gary Parker with three seconds left.