Tar Heels look unbeatable, show Cavs they aren't

January 21, 1993|By Ron Green Jr. | Ron Green Jr.,Knight-Ridder News Service

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The North Carolina Tar Heels brough Virginia down to earth last night while soaring ever higher themselves with an 80-58 victory over the Cavaliers in the Smith Center.

What had the look of a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season race turned instead into a demonstration of third-ranked North Carolina's power, particularly its overwhelming size up front.

The Tar Heels dominated seventh-ranked Virginia inside in the second half as they tore away from the previously unbeaten Cavaliers, leaving their 16-game winning streak in shreds and prompting North Carolina students to chant "overrated" as the game wore down.

"North Carolina didn't do anything to disprove to me that they're the best team in the country," Virginia coach Jeff Jones said.

The victory pushed North Carolina to 15-1 overall and into sole possession of first place in the ACC with a 5-0 record. Virginia, the last remaining unbeaten Division I team in the country entering the game, is 11-1 overall, 4-1 in the ACC.

Asked after the game if the Tar Heels could be beaten if they continue to play as they did against the Cavaliers, point guard Derrick Phelps said, "No. If we keep doing it the way we are, I don't think anyone can do it."

The Cavaliers certainly couldn't, especially not when North Carolina center Eric Montross gave himself a kick in the pants at halftime and decided to throw his size around. Though the Tar Heels led 32-25 at the break, Montross had scored just one basket and had been content to let Virginia's sagging defense dictate his evening.

North Carolina coach Dean Smith hinted he didn't like the way the game was being officiated inside during the first half, but he ++ was careful not to say it . . . directly.

"We decided to force feed Eric inside," Smith said. "We might get the foul called and he was able to score some layups."

Montross said his lack of production in the first half was more his fault than Virginia's.

"I was just sitting around on my rear end not doing enough," Montross said.

With Montross more active and Kevin Salvadori coming through with his best game of the season, the Tar Heels owned the middle. They outrebounded the Cavaliers 43-29 and got nearly half their rebounds (20) on the offensive glass.

Salvadori led North Carolina with 14 points and helped trigger an early 13-0 run by the Tar Heels that put them in control before the game was 10 minutes old. At times, Montross and Salvadori were on the court together, giving the Tar Heels a pair of 7-footers underneath.

When they weren't on the floor together, George Lynch was there scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Henrik Rodl had 11 points, including three three-pointers, offsetting Donald Williams' three-point game.

The Tar Heels also won the battle of defenses. Though the Cavaliers still have not allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent against them in a game (North Carolina shot .476), the Tar Heels blistered Virginia with a 56 percent shooting performance in the second half, much of it set up by an aggressive defense.

North Carolina put a bear hug on the outcome midway through the second half when it held the Cavaliers to just one basket in eight minutes, 49 seconds.

In that time, the Tar Heels turned an eight-point lead into a 22-point lead and drove home their point.

"North Carolina showed why they are a great team," Jones said. "They forced us to do a lot of things poorly. We were wrong thinking we could come down here and slug it out with a team that has that much depth and that much size. It has become a pattern where we come here, play tough for a while and then they wear us down."

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