For Heels, it's sweet redemption

UNC sheds mediocrity, delivers 60-53 upset of top-seeded Stanford

Guthridge: `We deserved it'

Spot in round of 16 is 17th in past 20 years

Ncaa Tournament

March 20, 2000|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Stanford chose to toss 22 of its 58 shots from behind the three-point arc. North Carolina decided to fly at the Cardinal on nearly every one of those shots, to clip the Cardinal's wings and roll forward to the Sweet 16.

Eighth-seeded North Carolina mesmerized the South Regional's top-seeded team, beating the Cardinal, 60-53, yesterday in a game of persistent Carolina defense, opportunistic Carolina offense and a blueprint Carolina finish.

North Carolina (20-13) will play fourth-seeded Tennessee next in Austin, Texas. The crowd at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center watched the Tar Heels earn their 17th Sweet 16 appearance in the past 20 years and likely their most improbable, given that many observers felt the Tar Heels didn't deserve an NCAA bid.

"We are not your average school and this is not your average team, regardless of what happened in the regular season," said Carolina forward Jason Capel, who scored eight points, but, more importantly, limited Stanford's leading scorer, Casey Jacobsen, to five points on 2-for-12 shooting.

"Our coach has taken a beating, more than the players, and that's a shame because he can only do so much. Our team was figured dead in the first round against Missouri. Well, I don't think so."

Tar Heels coach Bill Guthridge beamed with pride over his team. It followed last season's group that was booted from the first round of the tournament by Weber State.

"We worked hard against Stanford; we deserved it," Guthridge said. "Our defense of their threes was very good."

Stanford made only six of its 22 three-point shots (27.3 percent). Its starters converted only 14 of 50 overall shots. The Cardinal offense consisted of jumper after jumper after jumper. Stanford rarely drove to the basket, resulting in just eight free-throw attempts.

Carolina won the battle of points in the paint, 26-20, and 7-foot center Brendan Haywood had 12 points and eight rebounds. Stanford had not scored fewer than 64 points this season and had scored at least 80 in 14 games.

"I wanted us to make a statement," Haywood said. "We wanted to show people, the ones who counted us out a long time ago, that they don't know basketball as well as they think. This is big for us."

Stanford made 10 of 29 shots in each half and shot 34.5 percent for the game. It won in rebounds, 38-32, but did little converting on second chances with its 14 offensive rebounds. The Cardinal looked dizzy. It led by 27-20 with 2: 17 left before halftime and then allowed eight straight Tar Heels points. That gave North Carolina a 28-27 halftime lead. And then North Carolina scored the first six points of the second half.

Cardinal guard David Moseley (17 points) kept his team alive with early sharp shooting, but as the game progressed, he faded. Forward Ryan Mendez entered off the bench to provide a lift on 4-for-4 shooting (including two three-pointers) for 12 points.

But without Jacobsen scoring and with forward Mark Madsen (2-for-7, five points) and center Jarron Collins (3-for-10, eight points) struggling in general, Stanford was doomed.

"We got some looks but didn't make them," said Stanford coach Mike Montgomery. "They gave us some problems. They forced us to do some things we don't like."

Capel's defense against Jacobsen was the genesis.

"I watched a lot of film on him and saw he liked to come off screens and shoot," Capel said. "I wanted to be physical, make him go to one side and force him to put the ball on the floor. He doesn't like to do that and he wasn't as effective because of it."

There are several reasons why Stanford was seeded No. 1. Despite its awful shooting, its complex struggles, it fought back to lead 47-45 with 8: 03 to play. Three minutes passed before either team scored another basket.

Then it was Carolina freshman guard Joseph Forte who finished the Cardinal.

Forte made a layup and then sank consecutive three-point shots to give Carolina a lead it would not relinquish. Forte scored 11 points in the final five minutes, showing the flash and dazzle that made him the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.

"Coach told me to stop shooting like I was scared," said Forte, who finished with 17 points. "He said, `Let it go,' and I started to do that. At this stage, you can't be nervous or you go home."

That is where Stanford (27-4) is headed. But Carolina rolls forward.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know what happened to make people on our team come to their senses," said Ed Cota, the senior Carolina guard who led all players with 10 assists. "We had a rough year, especially early, but that's over now. We're playing more team basketball. We get to play for another day."

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