CHARLOTTESVILLE, JAN. 12 -- For 40 minutes and much of two extra sessions, Virginia's experienced lineup provided a stronger mixture than North Carolina Coach Dean Smith's sometimes disjointed, cast-of-thousands lineup. But in the second overtime, King Rice's jumper with three seconds left gave the fifth-ranked Tar Heels an 89-86 victory over the Cavaliers.
"It has to be our team's most significant win," said Smith, whose team improved to 13-1, 2-0 in the ACC.
"The players have to be tired because I know what I feel like," said Virginia Coach Jeff Jones. "Our kids have nothing to be ashamed of. . . . I don't think we played a particularly good game but we clawed back against a team with much more depth."
Point guard John Crotty broke Virginia's career assist record, held by Jones, late in the second half and led all scorers with 29. Bryant Stith added 22, Kenny Turner 17.
Pete Chilcutt provided a career-high 25 to lead the Tar Heels. Rick Fox contributed 21 before fouling out with a minute left in regulation.
Jones was only 17 months old in 1961 when Smith won his first game at North Carolina -- an 80-46 victory over Virginia. That wasn't forgotten here tonight, what with Billy McCann -- the coach of the 1961 Virginia squad -- on hand to be honored at halftime with several of his teammates from the 1941 Cavaliers.
It was in that era that Virginia last defeated North Carolina three straight times, a stretch that ended in 1944. Last season marked the first time since 1981 that the Cavaliers, who defeated North Carolina here Feb. 14 and in the first round of the ACC tournament, recorded back-to-back wins over the Tar Heels.
"They respect us more than they did in the past," Turner said. "Beating Virginia is a big thing now because we're good."
Smith determines his starting lineup, which has included 12 combinations over the Tar Heels' first 13 games, by naming as starters the five players who graded out the best defensively in the previous game. Tonight, he played 14 players in the first 20 minutes, with his first five including Virginia natives Hubert Davis, George Lynch and Kenny Harris.
Neither team led by more than three until a pair of free throws by Turner gave the Cavaliers a 23-19 lead. A layup from Crotty, whose father John played at North Carolina from 1958-60, extended the lead to six with just over seven minutes remaining in the half.
Fox -- who had 14 first-half points -- took over from there, scoring eight of the Tar Heels' next 12 points to put North Carolina up 31-28. Rice and Turner exchanged free throws before Anthony Oliver's tap-in at the buzzer brought Virginia to within 33-32 at intermission.
In the second half tonight, Chilcutt and Fox proved particularly unnerving for Virginia, as they seemed to have the answer to every Cavaliers surge. Rice's driving scoop shot over Crotty with 25 seconds remaining tied the game at 71, and after Oliver lost the ensuing possession to Eric Montross, the Tar Heels had a chance to win with three seconds left and the ball at midcourt.
But Montross's inbounds pass sailed clear across the court, over the North Carolina bench and into the stands, giving the ball back to Virginia with a second to play. Kenny Turner's inbounds pass went to Matt Blundin, who missed from 18 feet.
Jones pledged earlier in the week that the Cavaliers would have to maintain their 51 percent shooting and rebounding domination that had been responsible for Virginia's eight-game winning streak to help neutralize the Tar Heels' depth and size advantage.
But North Carolina, which had held opponents to 42 percent shooting coming into the game, stymied the Cavaliers from the start with an effective mix of chest-to-chest pressure and double-teaming Stith. Virginia finished shooting 39 percent for the evening, while converting only 19 of 29 free throws.
Despite those numbers, Crotty felt: "We played pretty well and had the open shots. On a different night we might have pulled this one out."