Upsets aren't sweet for UNC, Ky. BC shocks No. 1 Heels in 75-72 win NCAA TOURNAMENT

March 21, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Boston College coach Jim O'Brien and his four senior starters -- Bill Curley, Howard Eisley, Malcolm Huckaby and Gerrod Abram -- could reflect back to four years ago when this group started its college career by losing 15 of its first 16 games.

"We were so bad," said Curley, "we had trouble getting the ball over half-court."

But yesterday, these same players were standing on the top of the mountain after upsetting defending champion, top-ranked and No. 1 seed North Carolina, 75-72, in the second round of the NCAA East Regional at USAir Arena.

Curley scored 10 of BC's last 11 points, and the Eagles ended the Tar Heels' run of 13 consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16.

"This was probably the biggest victory in the history of BC basketball," said O'Brien. "These kids played with all their heart and determination."

Said Huckaby: "All I heard on TV the last few days was people talking about the Indiana-Temple game. No one gave us a chance to beat Carolina. Everyone laughed at us for thinking we could win.

"They thought we'd be intimidated by Eric Montross and Rasheed Wallace. How could we be after playing as freshmen against [Georgetown's] Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning? Why should we be scared now?"

In no way was this a fluke victory. The undersized, ninth-seeded Eagles (22-10) out-hustled the Tar Heels (28-7) for 40 minutes and made the big plays in the final minute to advance to a region semifinal against Indiana on Friday in Miami.

After two free throws by Montross tied it at 72 with 61 seconds left, Curley caught a tough pass while sandwiched between the twin towers of 6-foot-10 freshman Wallace and 7-foot senior Montross. Curley (18 points, nine rebounds) faked Wallace into the air, drew a foul and converted both free throws for a 74-72 lead with 38 seconds left.

With a chance to tie, Carolina freshman guard Jeff McInnis missed a jumper, and Wallace soared to grab the offensive rebound. But he was stripped by Abram, who had tormented the Tar Heels by converting six of 11 three-point attempts in scoring a game-high 21 points.

Abram was immediately fouled by Donald Williams and made one of two free throws with 17 seconds left, giving Carolina a chance to tie with a three-pointer.

The Tar Heels worked the ball up-court and called timeout with seven seconds left. Coach Dean Smith's plan was to lob the ball to Wallace, who would then seek out Williams (1-for-12) or McInnis for a three-point attempt.

But O'Brien and the Eagles had other plans.

"We played everyone out past the three-point line," said O'Brien. "We preferred making them take the three rather than fouling a guy inside and risking them missing a free throw and getting a put-back."

The strategy worked. Wallace found no one open and fired a three-pointer from the corner that clanked off the rim to ignite a wild celebration by the Eagles, who had lost to Georgetown by 33 points in the Big East tournament.

But instead of applauding BC's exceptional effort, Smith and his players cried foul.

The usually composed Carolina coach was especially outspoken over a flagrant foul by bulky BC freshman forward Danya Abrams that sidelined Carolina guard Derrick Phelps with 15:53 left to play.

With his team trailing 50-40, Phelps was streaking downcourt on a breakaway when Abrams flattened him with a forearm to the head. Phelps was carried off the court and diagnosed as having suffered a slight concussion. The team medical staff ruled against his returning to action.

"It was a horrible basketball play," said Smith. "Before the game, we warned our players about the rough play of No. 24 [Abrams]. We had watched tapes of him stepping on [Georgetown's] Othella Harrington. They like to play physical, but a player who commits such a flagrant foul should be tossed out.

"But if you're the underdog, why not push?" added Smith. "The officials won't call them."

Jerry Stackhouse (15 points), the explosive freshman forward who triggered Carolina's second-half comeback from a 13-point deficit, also was critical.

"We expected them to play physical, but there was also a lot of cheap shots," said Stackhouse.

O'Brien kept his composure when told of Carolina's charges.

"I agreed with the call on Abrams, but it was totally out of character for him," he said. "But we just had our greatest basketball victory ever. Why do we have to defend ourselves now against flagrant fouls?"

The Eagles now will prepare for their meeting with Indiana, while Smith and his Tar Heels take their sorrow back to Chapel Hill.

"There were a lot of tears in our locker room," Smith said, "but my players are mature enough to know that there are bigger problems in this world."

NCAA TOURNAMENT

East Regional

Indiana 67, Temple 58

Boston Col. 75, North Carolina 72

Southeast Regional

Marquette 75, Kentucky 63

Duke 85, Michigan State 74

Midwest Regional

Tulsa 82, Oklahoma State 80

Arkansas 85, Georgetown 73

West Regional

Arizona 71, Virginia 58

Louisville 60, Minnesota 55

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