All anyone will remember is the timeout that wasn't NCAA TOURNAMENT

JOHN EISENBERG

April 06, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

Chris Webber left the court immediately. He didn't stop to shake hands with any North Carolina players. He didn't stop to hug his teammates, as did the other members of the Fab Five.

He just took off for the locker room as the Carolina players were jumping into each other's arms at midcourt, celebrating a national championship won in a five-star thriller last night at the Superdome.

Who knows what Webber was thinking? How deep was his embarrassment?

He had played a magnificent game, scoring 23 points despite constant harassment around the basket, yet all anyone would ever remember -- for years, they will remember it, be sure of that -- was the timeout he called with 11 seconds left.

The timeout that Michigan did not have. The timeout that assured Carolina of a championship.

Move over, Freddie Brown.

When Webber called the timeout, Michigan was down two points and had the ball. Webber had rebounded a missed free throw and, after appearing to travel as he tried to dribble -- no call was made -- he dribbled upcourt and headed for the corner of the court, where he met a double team, turned away from it, cradled the ball and signaled for a timeout.

But Michigan had called its last timeout. None left. And calling a timeout in such a circumstance means a technical foul.

Carolina coach Dean Smith was the first one to recognize what had happened. Smith and the entire Carolina bench had been screaming about the lack of a call when Webber appeared to travel, jumping into the air and spilling onto the court. They just kept jumping, now in celebration.

Webber stood there for a moment, stunned at what had happened, at his enormous mistake, and hung his head. His eyes were glazed over for the remaining moments of the game.

Smith sent his best shooter, Donald Williams, to the foul line to shoot the technical free throws. he sank both, giving Carolina a four-point lead and basically clinching the win. One more foul sent Williams to the line for two more free throws, which he converted to finish off the 77-71 win.

It was an ending that will lead to inevitable conclusions. Michigan has a reputation as a brilliantly talented team that was somewhat lacking in offensive discipline. Carolina, of course, is the ultimate portrait of discipline, running the same familiar plays year after year.

It might be unfair, but it needs to be said: A North Carolina player would never have called a timeout in such a situation. The Tar Heels are nothing if not utterly aware and prepared for every situation.

It was an unfortunate ending to what had been a classic confrontation inside between Webber and Carolina center Eric Montross. The first time Montross touched the ball on offense, he pivoted and went up for a short bank shot. Webber stuffed it. See ya.

The third time Montross touched the ball on offense, he collected a loose ball underneath the basket and went up for a follow shot. Again, Webber stuffed it, although a body foul by Michigan's Jimmy King sent Montross to the line for two free throws.

Montross would score only one more basket the rest of the first half. Fisher clearly was determined not to let the colossus center beat his team in the manner that Montross had beaten Kansas. Montross was swarmed every time he touched the ball, with Webber, Howard and Eric Riley providing an impenetrable front.

Michigan appeared to take control of the game when Montross fell silent, scoring 11 straight points in one 96-second stretch of a 19-4 run, and moving out to a 23-13 lead. Webber was making more offensive noise, a drive, a put-back, a spectacular falling-on-his-rear bank shot.

Montross chose North Carolina for a reason, though. He knew he would get able coaching. He knew he would get maybe the smartest team in the country. The Tar Heels knew what to do last night. They ran their plays around Montross, using him as a screen, taking advantage of Michigan's sagging D. Back they came on a 14-3 run of their own.

Carolina took a six-point lead to the dressing room and expanded it to eight early in the second half, but Michigan fought back, led by Webber, even though he was being double-teamed and triple-teamed in the lane.

Michigan was up four with four minutes left, but then Carolina rallied behind guard Donald Williams, who sank two three-pointers and a basket. The Heels regained the lead at 68-67 and stretched it to five entering the last minute. Michigan cut it to two and would have had a shot to tie, or win, at the end. But Chris Webber called timeout.

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