Villanova hurts UNC before record crowd Kittles paces 20-point win over depleted Tar Heels

January 21, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- It was supposed to be Rasheed Wallace's homecoming, but he bolted to the NBA and the Bullets. The night before, North Carolina watched Jerry Stackhouse, its other sophomore star of last year, strut his stuff for the 76ers.

What's left of the Tar Heels was treated rudely yesterday, when No. 7 Villanova posted a monumental 76-56 rout at the Spectrum before 18,524, the largest crowd to watch a basketball game in Pennsylvania.

"If we had Rasheed and Jerry . . . and Billy Cunningham and Bobby Jones, it wouldn't have made much difference," Tar Heels coach Dean Smith said. "That's the best team we've played to date."

Combined with a two-point win in the Maui Invitational, Villanova became the first nonconference opponent to beat North Carolina twice in a season since the Atlantic Coast Conference opened for business in 1954.

It was the Tar Heels' lowest point production in seven seasons, and further evidence that the Big East Conference, and not the ACC, is the strongest league in the nation, despite what the power ratings say.

Villanova, the defending champion, had dropped two of its past three games in the Big East, and Kerry Kittles, its Player of the Year candidate, had been slowed by a groin pull. Coach Steve Lappas had seen the expectations weigh on his team and its star, but yesterday's rout seemed to cure whatever ailed the Wildcats.

"Before every game, I diagram the other team's plays on the chalkboard," Lappas said. "Today, I erased all of North Carolina's plays and told our guys just to go out and have some fun.

It ended up being a giddy day for Villanova, thanks to an uncharacteristic late collapse by North Carolina, which suffered its worst defeat of the season. The Tar Heels' three previous losses were by a total of seven points.

The Wildcats (14-3) trailed only once in the first half, but when Dante Calabria fed Serge Zwikker for a short jumper from the left baseline, the Tar Heels had a tie at 42 with 13:49 left. Villanova's veteran team answered with a 12-2 run, however, and ran away from No. 10 North Carolina (13-4).

Villanova, one of five Big East teams ranked in the Top 25, negated every North Carolina weapon.

Zwikker's 14 points kept the Tar Heels in it for 25 minutes, but in Jason Lawson and Rafal Biggus, Villanova had 14 feet worth of big man in the middle. Chuck Kornegay, the power forward who began his collegiate career at N.C. State, was challenged to stop Tar Heels freshman Antawn Jamison, and held him without a basket in the first half.

Point guard Jeff McInnis and Calabria, the Tar Heels' other leading scorers, combined to make only six of 24 shots, as they couldn't penetrate off the dribble against Alvin Williams and Kittles, who also broke loose at the offensive end after a couple of frustrating weeks.

Kittles, the 6-foot-5 senior guard who declined a chance to enter the NBA draft that featured Wallace, Stackhouse and Maryland's Joe Smith, made only seven of 17 shots in a Jan. 9 loss at Connecticut. He then pulled a groin pull in practice, and lasted only one minute in a two-point win at West Virginia. His struggles continued last Wednesday, when he shot five of 14 in an upset loss to Seton Hall.

Kittles had just one basket through 17 minutes yesterday, but he slashed for three baskets that kept Villanova on top late in the first half. In the second half, he kept coming off picks for open jump shots. He finished with a game-high 23 points, two more than Eric Eberz, who hit five three-pointers en route to 21 points. At the point, Williams had 10 assists and just one turnover.

"Across the board, that's got to be our best performance of the year," Kittles said. "Last year in the Big East tournament is the last time we had that kind of enthusiasm, that kind of fun. Today we showed a lot of maturity."

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