Hoping to repeat repeat history

April 05, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- It has happened before, as recently as last year when Duke played Michigan for the NCAA championship after the two teams had met in the regular season. The Blue Devils won both games.

Michigan is hoping to pull off the same trick tonight when the Wolverines play North Carolina here at the Superdome. Michigan defeated the Tar Heels, 79-78, in a Rainbow Classic semifinal in December.

"I don't think that game will have any bearing on this one," Michigan forward Chris Webber, who had 27 points and eight rebounds against North Carolina, said yesterday. "I just hope we come out on top."

The first meeting was one of the wilder games all year. It was closely contested from start to finish. It came down to the final minute: a reverse over-the-head dunk by Webber on a lob pass from Jalen Rose put Michigan ahead by one, a 6-footer in the lane by Donald Williams put the Tar Heels back in the lead.

Then came the game's final play. Out of timeouts and with only eight seconds to get the ball upcourt, Rose found Juwan Howard at the top of the key. Howard nearly travels, feeds Jimmy King along the right baseline and the Michigan guard puts up an 8-footer that barely touches the rim. But Rose was there for a short jumper in the lane.

Asked what he remembered about the last play, Rose said, "Actually, I don't remember anything."

What he does recall is the lob he threw to Webber. Some thought it was a bad shot, but Rose discounts that theory. "It was a lob," he said. "We call it 'The Hand.' We know he's going to get up. It counts two points. Just like Coach [Steve Fisher] draws it up."

What do the Tar Heels remember?

"I think as a team, defensively we were there but offensively, myself I didn't shoot too well [five of 18]. The team effort wasn't there and we didn't know our roles yet. We feel better about our roles right now and what we can do now," said North Carolina's George Lynch.

What gives Michigan added confidence about tonight is the fact that the Wolverines played most of that game without starting forward Ray Jackson, who separated his shoulder in the early minutes.

Family matters

Eric Montross has an interesting family conflict going on. The North Carolina center is about the only member of his immediate family not to go to Michigan. His parents are both graduates, and his sister is a sophomore in Ann Arbor.

Both Montross' father and his maternal grandfather played for the Wolverines. His father, Scott, was a bench player at Michigan whom Cazzie Russell reportedly used as practice fodder during the mid-'60s. But his grandfather, John Townsend, was a consensus All-America at Michigan in 1938 whose nickname was "Houdini of the Hardcourt."

When he was in high school in Indianapolis, his final three choices for college were North Carolina, Michigan and Indiana. When he played in the Final Four at the Hoosier Dome, he was booed throughout his 19-minute appearance in a semifinal loss to Kansas.

"I really never had a second guess, and I haven't given that a second thought," Montross said of his signing with the Tar Heels. "It was really an easy decision."

While his parents are clearly rooting for their son -- "We're Tar Heels in this tournament," said Scott Montross, an Indianapolis lawyer who played for the Wolverines from 1966 to 1968 -- the sibling rivalry has made for an interesting few days.

Apparently a peace has been reached. Eric's sister, Christine, has a recorded message on her telephone back on campus.

"This is Christine and Julie. We've reached a Final Four celebratory compromise and have gone out to paint the town Maize and Carolina Blue."

Joked Montross: "She's not going to trash talk me."

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