It's Final: Heels vs. Wolverines N. Carolina goes inside, outside for 78-68 victory

April 04, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- Two years ago at the Hoosier Dome, North Carolina's Dean Smith left the court in the final two minutes of his team's NCAA tournament semifinal loss to Kansas, the first coach to be thrown out of the Final Four. He shook hands with his former assistant, Roy Williams, before departing.

Last night at the Superdome, Smith stayed around for the entire 40 minutes. He again shook hands with Williams, but this time it was after his Tar Heels had thoroughly outplayed the Jayhawks in a 78-68 victory before a crowd of 64,151 that advanced Smith's team to tomorrow night's championship game.

"Of course, I don't dwell on the past," said Smith, who added to his record as the game's winningest active coach with his 773rd career victory, as well as to his record for NCAA tournament wins with his 54th. "I'm more concerned with this year's team. Certainly, we have a chance. Regardless of whom we play, we'll be ready."

North Carolina (33-4) will play Michigan (31-4), which defeated Kentucky, 81-78, in overtime in the second semifinal last night. It will mark the first appearance for the Tar Heels and Smith in the NCAA final since North Carolina beat Georgetown here on Michael Jordan's jump shot 11 years ago. It is Smith's fifth trip to the final.

The Tar Heels used their size and strength inside with junior center Eric Montross and senior forward George Lynch to dominate Kansas (29-7) early, then got some big shots by sophomore guard Donald Williams to pull away. Williams finished with a game-high 25 points, Montross scored 23 and Lynch added 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Williams, the hero of last Sunday's overtime win against Cincinnati in the East Regional final, made a key three-pointer after the Jayhawks cut an eight-point deficit to 68-65 with a little over 2 1/2 minutes left. He then came up with a steal and two free throws to clinch it.

"He knocked in some big shots," said Kansas guard Adonis Jordan, who did the same and helped bring the Jayhawks back several times. "That last three-pointer was a very big shot. Their guards played pretty good defense, too. I give them the nod."

North Carolina's ability to shut down Rex Walters in the second half enabled the Tar Heels to open up some breathing room. Walters shared team-high honors of 19 points with Jordan, but was limited to six points in the second half.

"We were ready for them, and we tried to contest every shot," said Lynch, who held Kansas forward Richard Scott to eight points and one rebound. "I don't think they were prepared for our defense."

No matter how prepared the Jayhawks were for Montross, they had trouble stopping the 7-foot, 270-pound junior. With 6-10, 230-pound Eric Pauley in front of Montross, the Tar Heels went time after time to their big man. And, time after time, he delivered.

Kansas, which trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and by four at halftime, got to 42-39 early in the second half. Montross scored, was fouled and scored again on the follow of his own errant free throw. After the Jayhawks closed to 48-46, Montross scored twice in a 6-0 run.

"He's a great player," said Pauley, who scored only five points but managed to out-rebound Montross, 9-4. "He did a great job and his teammates did a great job of getting the ball over the top on the lob. It's not easy to execute, but they did. It's difficult stopping him."

Said Lynch: "He's our go-to guy inside. He did a good job of taking it to the basket and converting those shots. We didn't need to go to a second option."

But when Montross became shackled with foul trouble midway through the second half -- he picked up his fourth personal with a little over eight minutes left and the Tar Heels ahead by five -- North Carolina found another source of offense in Williams.

A streaky shooter who many believe to be the key to the team, Williams had put together a quietly spectacular game for the first minutes, matching Jordan and Walters three-pointer for three-pointer. He was merely spectacular down the stretch, on offense and defense.

"I think he did a great job," said Smith.

What hurt the Jayhawks was the early foul trouble to their sixth man, junior guard Steve Woodberry. After picking up three fouls in the first 10:21 of the game, Woodberry was ineffective the rest of the way, finishing with four points. More importantly, Kansas had nobody to stop Williams.

The defeat stopped a marvelous run by the Jayhawks, who despite being seeded second in the Midwest Regional were given little chance to get this far. The loss reduced Roy Williams to tears and stopped his two-game streak of spitting into the Mississippi River. Last night, Williams' run of luck ran dry.

"People are going to ask how it feels to lose to North Carolina, and it still feels crappy," said Williams, who was an assistant to Smith when the Tar Heels last won the NCAA title. "But I'll be pulling like the dickens for North Carolina. If that upsets anybody for Michigan or Kentucky, they don't know Roy Williams."

The Tar Heels' victory didn't come without a price. Point guard Derrick Phelps, who bruised his tailbone in the ACC tournament, reinjured his back last night and was hobbled for most of the second half. Starting forward Brian Reese also suffered a bruise over his left eye.

"I think they'll be ready," said Smith.

Undoubtably, so will North Carolina. As it was the last time they got this far, it has been a long time between national championships.

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