Jamison drives Carolina past Cal, toward Final 4 Forward's 12-point run rallies Tar Heels, 63-57

March 22, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The road to the Final Four opened wide for North Carolina last night, but only after the Tar Heels navigated through the congested traffic lanes at the Carrier Dome.

Getting a huge second-half lift from Antawn Jamison, their 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, the top-seeded Tar Heels advanced the East Regional championship game with a 63-57 victory over fifth seed California before 30,617.

Jamison helped erase a seven-point, second-half deficit by scoring 12 consecutive Carolina points. When Vince Carter followed with a dunk off a lob pass from Ed Cota and then a three-pointer, the Tar Heels had finally wrested control of the game away from the Golden Bears.

"He just put us on his back and carried us," Carter said of Jamison's domination down the stretch.

Carolina's 15th straight win in a 27-6 season sets up an East final against Louisville tomorrow at 2: 40 p.m. The Cardinals apparently will have to play without their flashy floor leader, DeJuan Wheat, who suffered a sprained ankle in a 78-63 triumph over Texas last night.

A victory over Louisville will earn Carolina its fourth Final Four appearance in the 1990s, and the 11th overall under Dean Smith. Curiously, the Tar Heels have advanced to the Final Four in odd-numbered years this decade: 1991, 1993, 1995.

If Carolina can beat a weakened Louisville team, it will advance to the national semifinals against the winner of the Arizona-Providence final in the Southeast. Arizona knocked off No. 1-ranked Kansas to eliminate the possibility of a matchup between Smith and his former assistant, Roy Williams.

Smith wasn't about to get ahead of himself last night, however.

"In many ways, we were lucky the way they [the Bears] handled us on the boards," he said.

Carolina, ranked second in the nation in rebounding margin, was beaten on the boards by the Bears, 37-34, and lulled into a game played at Cal's tempo.

The Tar Heels watched a nine-point, first-half lead dwindle to two (28-26) at halftime. And when Cal (23-9) went on an 8-2 run at the start of the second half, Carolina suddenly found itself behind.

Down 43-36, Jamison kick-started Carolina with a layup. In the next four minutes, he took over a game that was waiting to be won.

"I know when Antawn wants the ball," Shammond Williams said of the critical stretch. "He'll start running. Then you see a determination in him.

"My feeling was, get him the ball. We were playing our style of basketball when he was scoring points."

Jamison scored on four free throws, three layups and a tip-in during his streak.

"Antawn did give us a lift," Smith said, "but Serge [Zwikker] and Shammond and [Ed] Cota gave him some good layups."

Jamison finished his personal run with two free throws -- the first rattled around the rim before dropping through -- to get a tie at 48.

Then it was Carter's turn. The 6-6 sophomore showed no effects of his tender groin when he cashed in an alley-oop pass from Cota at 5: 59 to break the tie. After a Cal turnover, he hit a three-pointer from the top of the circle to complete a 17-5 run and open a five-point Carolina lead.

Cal answered with a three-pointer by 6-10 Sean Marks, but Jamison scored another layup -- this one off a pass from Zwikker -- and Williams knocked down a three-pointer to make it 58-51.

"My teammates don't depend on me," Jamison said. "But they depend on me to do my job. I just settled down. I was rushing my shots in the first half."

Pub Date: 3/22/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.