Tar Heels make themselves at home Carolina kicks aside Michigan State, 73-58, to reach final eight

East Regional

March 20, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- With 32 seconds left, the sky-blue crowd rose as one last night at Greensboro Coliseum in tribute both to the dominance of North Carolina and the comfort of familiar surroundings.

Serenaded by a heavily partisan crowd of 23,235, the No. 1 Tar Heels flogged Michigan State, 73-58, to advance to the NCAA tournament's final eight. Carolina will play No. 2 seed Connecticut, which defeated Washington, 75-74, tomorrow for a spot in the Final Four.

The decibel level hardly could have been higher had Carolina been allowed to play in its Chapel Hill palace, the Dean Smith Center, just 50 miles up the road.

"You got the sense there were a lot of people out there rooting for Carolina," Tar Heels All-American Antawn Jamison said in obvious understatement after his 20-point, 14-rebound game.

The short trip to Greensboro, where the Tar Heels are now 98-25 all-time, was Carolina's reward for top seeding in the East Regional. It probably wouldn't have mattered where they played the Spartans (22-8) on this night, though.

Alternating between man-to-man and zone defense, Carolina shattered Michigan State's rhythm. The Tar Heels also dominated the boards against the Big Ten's best rebounding team 51-33.

"We frustrated them," Jamison said. "Our defense was everywhere."

The Spartans shot just 30.9 percent from the field and 24 percent from the three-point line.

Michigan State point guard Mateen Cleaves, the Big Ten Player of the Year, hit just seven of 21 shots. He never got his penetration game untracked against Ed Cota's tenacious defense.

"I wouldn't say I stopped him from penetrating," Cota said. "It was a team effort. I tried to force him into the double team."

It was a team effort in all respects. Vince Carter matched Jamison's 20 points and added 10 rebounds. Shammond Williams hit only two of six three-point tries but threw down two dunks and totaled 18 points. Cota had 11 points and eight assists.

Down 38-24 at halftime, the Spartans made their only serious run in the game at the outset of the second half. A 16-6 run, capped with a pair of three-pointers by Charlie Bell, got them within four.

But just as quickly as Michigan State's spurt had come, it disappeared. Cleaves rimmed out a three-point shot that would have gotten the Spartans within a point, and two possessions later, he rimmed another three-pointer. The drought was on.

"Our defense was excellent," said Carolina coach Bill Guthridge. "Today our defense was better than our offense. Rebounding helped us the most, then defense, then offense."

Even in reaching the regional finals for the fifth time in eight years, the Heels weren't satisfied.

"We have our sights set on something bigger than the Final Four," Williams said. "We have been focused throughout the season, and now we have an opportunity to do those things."

Even better, they have the opportunity at home.

Pub Date: 3/20/98

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