A delayed return, but a return nevertheless. Today, the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center turned 30 today, so our countdown of the 30 greatest games the building's ever seen continues on.
The last time these two squads had clashed in Chapel Hill, coaches had to be separated in front of the Duke bench and Carolina knocked off the Blue Devils in one of the most heated games in the rivalry’s history. This time around, UNC had raised the stakes. This was Roy Williams’ first swing at Mike Krzyzewski since returning to Carolina.
Duke came in 18-1, unbeaten in the conference, and ranked #1 in the nation, and needless to say, ESPN had been teasing this game all over their basketball broadcasts for weeks. The Tar Heels had shown flashes of brilliance, but were only 13-5 against a loaded schedule and needed a win here to get back to .500 in the ACC. True to form, the Tar Heels started sloppy, turning the ball over a half dozen times early and digging themselves an 8-1 hole before the first TV timeout.
Carolina’s struggles on the offensive end continued, and Duke built a double digit lead halfway thru the opening session. Back to back blocks of J.J. Redick and Shavlik Randolph finally lit the fuse for the Heels, and UNC rolled off an 11-3 run to pull within one possession, but the Blue Devils settled back down and stretched the lead back out to as much as nine, but Melvin Scott picked up an errant Chris Duhon pass and got fouled on the runout with two seconds left in the half. Two free throws later and Carolina went to the locker room down only 42-37, a moral victory given how bad the Tar Heels had played for the majority of the half.
The teams traded baskets to open the second half, but the game remained sloppy as they traded turnovers, as well. Carolina finally drew even at 49 under the 15:00 mark on buckets from Rashad McCants and Jackie Manuel, and a McCants driving runner gave UNC their first lead of the contest. Back to back threes by Daniel Ewing and Duhon swung the momentum back to the bad guys, but Jawad Williams would push Carolina ahead again on a lay-in with 10:15 to play. Then Luol Deng put Duke back ahead. Then McCants converted a three point play to give UNC the lead. Back and forth they went. Ewing answered with a three. Then the spurt: Felton worked his way thru traffic for a layup to swing the lead back to UNC, Felton sank a three from in front of the Carolina bench, and a McCants fastbreak jam capped off a 9-0 run to give the Tar Heels their biggest lead of the night at 69-62 with just over 5:00 to go.
But Carolina went cold, and Duke wasn’t going quietly. Four quick points cut the margin to three heading into the final official timeout, and a Deng basket inside cut the Carolina lead to just 1 with three minutes left. After another Carolina miss, two Duhon free throws pushed the Blue Devils back ahead. McCants cut to the hoop on a nice drive with 1:15 to play but got rejected by Shelden Williams, and Deng sank two more freebies to finish a 10-0 Duke run and give the Blue Devils a 72-69 lead heading into the final minute. Sean May corralled a Williams miss and stuck it back to stop the bleeding. The Heels were a stop and a bucket from winning the game.
They couldn’t get the stop. Redick drove the lane and got a tough layup, leaving the Tar Heels needing three to draw even. The execution wasn’t pretty, but Williams drained a three from the top of the key with 18 seconds left to tie the game, and Ewing’s shot from the corner fell short, sending the contest to overtime.
Duke took early command in the extra session, but Ewing missed a wide open three that would’ve pushed Duke’s lead to six, and his subsequent silly foul on McCants on the rebound allowed UNC to pull back to 79-78. After a series of empty possessions, Carolina found itself with the ball with under a minute to go but couldn’t get a shot off. The shot clock violation forced the Heels to foul, and Redick drained both to make it a three point game, just like at the end of regulation. And just as we saw earlier, Carolina tied the game, this time on a Melvin Scott three from the right wing with 13 seconds left. Double overtime? Not exactly, as Duhon took the inbounds pass for one of the signature moments in the history of the rivalry, okey-doking to half court and then making a mad dash down the sideline and toward the basket, swooping thru the lane for a go-ahead reverse layup with 6 seconds left. Carolina rushed back down, but Scott’s three to win the game fell short, and McCants couldn’t handle the putback, allowing the bad guys to escape the Smith Center with a dramatic 83-81 victory.
McCants finished with a game-high 27, and May had 15 points (despite missing a bunch of bunnies) and 21 rebounds, foreshadowing his dominance of Shelden Williams and the Blue Devils the following year. This game was the first of a thrilling three year, six game, set which ultimately sent the pendulum of the rivalry swinging swiftly back toward Chapel Hill. The next time these two teams would meet in this building, Carolina would finally turn the tables on Duke in one of the defining moments in the history of UNC basketball.
And another great game from Roy’s first season back in Chapel Hill.
Top ranked UConn returned south a year after being upset at the Smith Center the year prior. With mostly everyone back, including studs Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, the Huskies were among the favorites to win the national title. The talented Heels were 10-3 and still learning their way under their new coach, but came in 11th in the nation, having blasted 8th ranked Georgia Tech at home the week prior, even though that game and this one sandwiched a close loss to Maryland in College Park.
UConn got buckets from Okafor and Gordon right off the bat, going up 8-2, looking as if Carolina would have its hands full from the get go. But the Tar Heels hit back, tying the game at the 12:18 mark on two David Noel free throws. Carolina would hold the lead for several minutes, before UConn slipped back out in front ahead of the 8:00 timeout, and a big alley oop to All-Ugly captain Charlie Villanueva gave the Huskies a 29-26 lead. But Felton found Noel for their own acrobatics the next trip down, Melvin Scott sank a three to tie the game, and the Heels rolled out a 22-5 run, including the last 12, over the final six minutes of the first session to take a 50-36 cushion to the break. The lead could’ve been more, but Reyshawn Terry was whistled for a bogus charging call on a fastbreak that erased a basket and Byron Sanders missed two free throws at triple zeroes after a scrum under the UConn basket.
The Huskies had no intentions of going quietly. After the lead stretched to 16, UConn ripped off a 15-2 spurt showing why they were the #1 team in the land, taking less than seven minutes to cut the lead to 61-60. A Gordon three after an Okafor stuff of Jackie Manuel gave UConn their first lead in over an hour with nine minutes left, a lead the Huskies maintained for much of the balance of the contest. Okafor got another basket inside with 1:30 to go to give UConn an 83-80 lead, which was wiped out the next time down by McCants, who took a pretty pass from Williams and drilled a three from the wing to tie the game, setting the stage for the finish.
UConn had two chances to take the lead, as Okafor corralled Villanueva’s missed jumper, and Gordon’s driving runner rimmed off. Williams grabbed the rebound and desperately whipped it off Okafor’s leg to maintain possession with 30 seconds left. Carolina their (what would become infamous) Long Beach set, and Felton hit McCants off a false backdoor cut for the go-ahead three with six seconds left. The Huskies’ last chance went to Gordon, whose spinning three at the horn barely grazed the front of the rim, setting off pandemonium at the Smith Center.
Okafor finished with a wild 29-13-6 blocks and the Huskies would ultimately win the national title.
Let’s make it a trifecta of games from Roy’s first season home.
It’s weird that it’s so hard to find material online for this one. If this game happens two or three years later, it’s a YouTube classic. But we were still stuck in pre-social media times for this classic, one of those goofy, collateral damage, December tilts, against Wake Forest. And this wasn’t your typical holiday break contest, as a hot crowd shelved their holiday plans and showed up en masse for Roy Williams’ first ACC game.
I personally don’t remember much, just that Roy threw shirts to the students, and that it was an old school, fast paced, ACC game between top 15 teams who threw haymakers at each other for the duration of the game. Wake came in ranked 14th, Carolina 4th, Chris Paul and Raymond Felton barked at each other all afternoon, and forty minutes wasn’t nearly enough to settle things, as the game went to overtime knotted at 88. The Tar Heels inched ahead 103-102 with 32 seconds left in OT on a three from Rashad McCants, but after Jawad Williams only hit one of two free throws, Paul was fouled shooting a three with one second left. With a chance to win the game at the line, Paul only sank two of three, sending the game to a second extra session.
Carolina had the shot to win the game in a sloppy double overtime, but McCants missed both free throws with the Heels nursing a two point lead (the only points scored in 2OT to that point), which allowed Wake to tie the game on an Erik Williams lay in. It finally ended in triple overtime, with Felton losing the ball on a busted play as Carolina searched for a tying three pointer and Williams hitting two freebies on the other end to give Wake the 119-114 victory.
If the game happens in March, we’d still be talking about it to this day. And if Carolina had pulled it out, it’d be higher on this list.
Coming off a last second home loss to Notre Dame five days prior, the Tar Heels welcomed new conference foe Louisville to the Dean Dome for a marquee early season ACC matchup. The Cards came in ranked 5th in the nation, carrying a 14-1 mark. While Carolina was 18th in the AP poll, the jury was still out on whether the 11-4 Tar Heels were capable of competing at the highest level. Two hours and some change after tip off, we’d have our answer.
After a back and forth first half that saw the teams head to the locker rooms tied at 34, the Cardinals came out hot and took control of the contest early in the second half with a 15-4 run bookended by Terry Rozier jumpers. Complicating matters for the Tar Heels, Marcus Paige rolled his ankle just as Carolina began to stem the tide. Louisville took advantage of Paige’s absence and extended the lead to 63-50 on a Wayne Blackshear three with 8:41 to play. Then the old Carolina magic got going.
A couple of free throws by Kennedy Meeks stopped this latest Cards spurt, and Paige went to the scorer’s table to check in as Joel Berry drained a three to perk the crowd up. The comeback was on. It wasn’t long before Paige reasserted himself and hit a three of his own to cut the margin to seven. A Brice Johnson dunk, J.P. Tokoto bucket, and two free throws from Nate Britt later, Carolina had sliced Louisville’s lead down to three heading into the final TV timeout.
The Cards, who seemingly couldn’t miss to start the second half, had gone ice cold with only two field goals over nearly seven minutes, and after Tokoto tipped in his own miss to pull Carolina within one, the Tar Heels finally climbed ahead on a Brice Johnson hook shot with 40 seconds to play. Louisville went to back to Rozier, who finished with a game high 25 points, and the Cards got the bucket they needed - a 14 footer from left of the paint - to push Louisville back in front with 25 seconds left.
Carolina was in the same situation they’d been in earlier in the week against the Fighting Irish: down a point, with the ball and a chance to win the game. That hadn’t gone well on Monday, as Paige only got a highly contested, desperation three from along the sideline that never really had a prayer of going in. This time was different. Paige drove left and down the lane, scooping a falling shot up high off the glass that fell thru the net with eight seconds to go, giving the Heels the lead. But there was one more stop to make. The Cards raced down the floor, 5 on 4 with Paige scrambling from the baseline floor to get back, and Blackshear got another three away from the corner. This was found back iron, but the rebound caromed to Rozier who managed to get off an off-balance jumper just beyond the outstretched hand of Justin Jackson. But Rozier’s game-winning try hit the glass, the rim, and fell harmlessly away as the horn sounded.
Everybody knows what happened here, including the things that the crack officiating crew completely missed in the final minute of the contest. No further comment.
I’ll be back next time for the top 10 games in Smith Center history. Plenty of good stuff to be had.
The 30th season at the Smith Center has tipped off with Carolina's win over Fairfield on Sunday. I am counting down the 30 best games that the Tar Heels have ever played at the Dean Dome. If you missed parts one and two, I highly recommend you go check them out. Today we've got upsets, a Vince Carter sighting, and Dookies being Dookies.
Eighth ranked Carolina entered the final game of the 2007 regular season in a weird spot. A win would give the young, but talented Tar Heels a share of the ACC regular season title and the top seed in the conference tournament the following week. However, due to the two game losing streak Carolina was riding, a loss would drop UNC to the #5 seed and a Thursday date in Tampa. But that was the gist of the stakes entering the afternoon, because Duke had little to play for but pride.
The Blue Devils were fading in a hurry, suffering through their worst season in over a decade and just trying to get to the NCAA Tournament healthy, where they could hit the reset button and hope to make a deep run. Duke was looking at an extra game already in the ACC Tournament, so the odds of making noise the following week were long, but with NCAA seeding still in play, every game still counted for the Blue Devils. Especially against Carolina. But for more than 39 minutes, this one – particularly for a Carolina/Duke game – was underwhelming.
It was, of course, Senior Day in Chapel Hill. Wes Miller, Reyshawn Terry, and walk-on Dewey “Biscuits” Burke got starts for Carolina, and the Tar Heels jumped out to a 12-2 lead before the first TV timeout. Duke would hang around for the next ten minutes or so, and a Greg Paulus three pointer would pull Duke within five with a little under nine minutes left in the half. The Heels would stretch the lead back out behind an 11-3 run and took a 38-29 cushion into the locker room.
The Dookies put together a rally early in the second half, piecing together a 19-8 run of their own to claw back within two. But that was as interesting as the scoreboard would get, as Carolina had just too much firepower for the outmanned Blue Devils, shutting down Duke’s shooting for the next seven minutes and running the lead back out to 68-52 with five minutes and change remaining. There was no comeback to be had from this Duke bunch, and the clock ticked down toward the horn with little drama; Duke would hit a shot here or there, Carolina would get a bucket or free throws to sustain the margin. It was as uneventful a rivalry game as you can imagine between these two teams.
Until Tyler Hansbrough was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Bobby Frasor missed a free throw with 17.5 seconds left in an 84-72 game, and Hansbrough snagged the rebound. The sophomore from Poplar Bluff, Missouri had tallied 26 points this afternoon, was a 77% free throw shooter, but missed the first of two from the charity stripe. There was a sub (I believe it was Blue Team Hall of Famer Mike Copeland) at the table waiting to enter the game for Hansbrough after the second shot, but Hansbrough uncharacteristically missed that one, too.
Being the hyper-competitive player he is, Hansbrough barreled into the lane to crash the boards, ultimately corralling the rebound, his 17th of the game, as he had moments earlier on the Frasor miss. Hansbrough pivoted between defenders and went straight back up, getting fouled from behind. But the real contact came immediately after the whistle, and from the front.
Gerald Henderson had been on the low block, having somewhat boxed out Wayne Ellington on the shot. This halfassed effort left Henderson toward the right wing, about fifteen feet from the basket. Ellington, upon seeing Hansbrough come up with the ball, crossed the key at the free throw line, headed for the opposite wing, looking for the pass out of the double team Hansbrough now found himself in. With Ellington now crosscourt, Henderson not only had nobody to be defensively responsible for, but had a clear lane to sprint in and challenge Hansbrough’s putback.
But Henderson didn’t challenge the shot. He clobbered Hansbrough in the face with a forearm shiver, and instantly became one of the most hated Duke players in the history of the rivalry.
Hansbrough hit the deck hard and, upon seeing his own blood pool on the Carolina blue paint inches from his face, bounced right back up, looking to throw with anyone. Of all people, it was Burke – BISCUITS! – who happened to be the player closest by and instantly grabbed the bloody Hansbrough around the waist to keep things from really escalating. The referees, to their credit, quickly got order and sent Hansbrough to the locker room to clean up, then huddled to sort things out. When the smoke cleared, Henderson was ejected and escorted out of the arena to a serenade of boos and jeers, his legacy in Chapel Hill cemented for eternity.
The aftermath is what really gives this incident its legendary status. On the live broadcast, Billy Packer, in his last Duke/Carolina game for CBS, insisted that Henderson was clearly going for the ball, despite replay showing Henderson never extending his arm beyond a 90 degree angle at the elbow. Packer then went on to wonder aloud why Hansbrough was even in the game given the time and score, never asking why Henderson (not a Duke starter but getting starter’s minutes) was also still on the court. Give his track record, we expected this from Packer.
We didn’t expect the same load of crap from the head rat himself, Mike Krzyzewski.
“The game was over before that. I mean the outcome of the game, let's put it that way. That's unfortunate, too, that those people were in the game in that play. Maybe this wouldn't have happened." - Mike Krzyzewski
The leader who happens to coach basketball then proceeded to call Henderson “the real victim,” a quote which has seemingly been wiped from mainstream sports media on the internet, and basically denied any Duke responsibility for anything that happened. Kryzooski’s whining about Henderson being suspended for the first round of the ACC Tournament wound up funnier than we all first thought that Sunday after the Dookies were upset by NC State Thursday night in the first round of the conference tournament.
Hansbrough wore a mask for the ACC Tournament, where the Heels defeated the Cinderella Wolfpack for the crown. He’d symbolically take the mask off mid-game during the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State, as Carolina ran away from the Spartans in the second half. Carolina’s turbulent season ultimately ended in disaster in the East regional final, where Roy Hibbert committed approximately 39 personal fouls while somehow only getting called for four, and Georgetown rallied late to force OT and then dominated the entire extra session to send the Heels packing.
Duke, with Henderson in the lineup, lost to VCU in the first round.
It was already a big week at the Smith Center (SPOILER ALERT!) before the team from up the road came down 15-501 to tangle for another entry in the best rivalry in sports. Carolina, finding its way after losing Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace from their Final Four team the year prior, was back in the top 10 and 6-1 in the conference and comfortably favored over the unranked Blue Devils, who were still recovering from their nightmare 1995 season (see last game for my opinion on Krzyzewski). The Tar Heels had won five in a row in the series, Duke’s longest slide against the good guys since the early days of Coach K’s tenure. But two fouls on freshman stud Antawn Jamison before the first TV timeout gave the Dookies an early advantage over the Tar Heels.
Duke’s backcourt of Jeff Capel and Chris Collins dominated the first half, taking advantage of six early UNC turnovers, running out to a 37-20 lead 16 minutes into the game after a long Capel bomb. Carolina would get it down to seven before a Carmen Wallace three and a Capel bank shot just before the buzzer pushed the Blue Devil lead back to 42-30 going into the locker room. Despite the two early fouls, Jamison still had 15 points at the break.
Carolina came out quick in the second half, with a couple of offensive putbacks by Jamison and the headbanded Serge Zwikker, forcing a quick Duke timeout. Two Jeff McInnis free throws would get the crowd on their feet and Krzyzewski would need another timeout after back to back buckets by Jamison, the latter being a monster one handed jam off a pretty feed from Ademola Okulaja to pull Carolina within 44-42. But Jamison would pick up his fourth foul the next time down (his third one was an awful charge call), so could the Tar Heels get over the hump with #33 on the bench?
Duke slowly crept away, as Ricky Price heated up for a bit, forcing Dean to send Jamison back in, The crowd woke back up on an alley oop to Vince Carter – the baseline inbounds play – for Carter’s first points of the evening. But another bucket from Price and a three from Capel gave Duke a 63-52 lead with 8:40 to play. The Tar Heels rallied. Jamison got another offensive board and putback, then Shammond Williams sank a three to cut the lead to 64-59, and two free throws by Okulaja brought Carolina within three. McInnis crashed the offensive glass and drew a foul to cut the margin to a single point, but Price drilled a trap-busting three to give Duke some breathing room with 4:50 remaining.
Then the big play happened: Jamison was whistled for his fifth foul, on phantom contact with legendary Duke big man Greg Newton, ending the Carolina freshman’s night at the four minute mark with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Newton and McInnis exchanged free throws, and the Blue Devils took a 68-65 cushion into the final TV timeout. After Capel missed a corner three that would’ve pushed it to six, Okulaja got a putback to bring it back to 69-68, but McInnis missed a bad three in transition that would’ve given the Heels the lead, only to see Wojo make the transition three on the other end to make it 72-68 with 1:10 to play. Williams answered that with a three of his own, sending the game into the final minute – Duke ball, with a one point lead.
Collins turned it over along the sideline with a half minute to go, but Carolina tried to give it right back when the pass McInnis left for Dante Calabria bounced off Calabria’s hands. Collins dove for the loose ball, but McInnis tied him up and the possession arrow favored the Tar Heels with 20 seconds left. With the game on the line, McInnis drove the lane and dished to Zwikker, but Newton blocked his shot from behind, and the ball caromed off the rim and backboard to Calabria, who tipped it in with six seconds left to give Carolina the lead, 73-72, their first lead in roughly two hours. Duke had a final chance to win the game, but Price’s 15 footer hit back iron as time expired.
Tasked with immediately restoring order to the program after a disastrous 2002 season, the young Tar Heels were still finding their way when sixth ranked UConn rolled into the Dean Dome in the middle of January. After a surprising Preseason NIT title, promising freshman big man Sean May had broken his foot in a late December loss to Iona, and the Heels were staggering, having dropped three of their last five.
Carolina blitzed the Huskies out of the gate, going up 23-4 in the first nine minutes, riling up a Smith Center crowd desperate to see a glimpse of greatness again. UConn battled back to within ten, but Rashad McCants drilled a shot clock-beating bomb to stem the tide and the Heels took a 38-27 lead into the half. The Huskies, however, had experience in dealing with double digit deficits, having been down big the prior four games, and UConn staged a rally. The Huskies pulled to 54-50 with under eight minutes to go, but Raymond Felton drew back to back fouls on UConn big man Emeka Okafor, sending him to the bench with four personals.
That only delayed the Huskies’ comeback, and Okafor’s dunk on a runout gave UConn their first lead of the contest with just over a minute left. But Carolina didn’t lose their cool, even though they’d lost their lead, and Jawad Williams sank a 17 footer from the left wing – just over the outstretched hand of Okafor – to swing the lead back to the Tar Heels with 56 seconds remaining. After Ben Gordon missed a three on the other end, Jackie Manuel grabbed the rebound, and the Tar Heels passed it around, trying to run it to the buzzer, as the shot clocks were off, unbeknown to the Huskies, who finally scrambled to foul McCants with just three seconds left. McCants hit both free throws, the last of his game high 27 points, and Gordon’s 25 footer rimmed off at the horn, triggering a court storming by the UNC students.
Despite the win, Carolina wasn’t back yet. The Tar Heels dropped their next five games and wound up in the NIT, giving Carmichael some unforeseen run. The Huskies would bring everyone back from this team and fight another day in Chapel Hill…
I remember the comeback. I remember the dunk. I remember the VHS tape on which I taped the SportsCenter highlights. I remember all of this stuff vividly 19 years later, so it must’ve been a hell of a deal.
So why is there almost no internet record of this game?
It was certainly worthy of sharing with future generations, because it was a tremendous contest between ACC heavyweights. Wake was ranked ninth in the land, 13-2, and the consensus favorite to win the conference behind junior Tim Duncan. It was a year of transition for the Tar Heels, but Carolina was ranked 11th, dropping close games in Atlanta and Austin to Tech and Texas, as well as a pair of games to a good Villanova team, one tight one in Maui and one rout in Philadelphia.
This one looked to be a rout in Chapel Hill. UNC posted their worst offensive output in a half in over a decade, shooting only 26%, and the Demon Deacons took a comfortable 32-18 lead into the locker room. And when Duncan scored with 17:24 left in the game, Wake held a 41-23 lead, with no sign of a fight from the home team. But Carolina began to stir, and went on a 12-2 spurt to bring it back to single digits.
As the team woke up, so did the crowd, and the Tar Heels chipped away a little at a time, finally going ahead on an Ademola Okulaja three pointer with two and a half minutes left. Jeff McInnis led the Heels with 20 points, and put Carolina ahead for good with a floater over Duncan with just over a minute to play, as Carolina ended the game on a ridiculous 42-18 run. The icing on the cake came after Tar Heel free throws put the game out of reach, as freshman Vince Carter caught a lob from McInnis for a reverse jam as time was running out, bringing down the house.
Wake would reach the Midwest regional final, where they got blown out by an absolutely loaded Kentucky squad. Duncan finished this game with 22 and would return for his senior season, ultimately dropping two of three to Carolina and never reaching the Final Four. The alley oop was one of many Carter highlights during his three seasons in Chapel Hill.
Another round of Duke/Carolina was on the docket for Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Carolina was riding a five game winning streak and in the process of righting the ship after a horrible 1-4 start in ACC play. A win over #8 Duke would solidify their standing in the league and serve notice to the rest of the conference that the Tar Heels would have a say in matters before the season was all said and done.
A winter storm crept into the Triangle hours before scheduled tip off, and it came in heavier than originally anticipated. Fans driving in were eventually met with gridlocked highways the closer they got to the Smith Center, and some parked their cars alongside the snow covered roads and hiked the rest of the way, for Mother Nature is no obstacle to witness the greatest rivalry in sports. UNC issued additional student tickets and had the standby line ready in the likely case some people never made it all the way in. The Tar Heels were there, the Dean Dome was staffed, the ACC officials were present, the students were ready.
And Duke never showed up.
Rather than plan ahead and leave early (classes were cancelled effective 10am, so no excuse there), Mike Krzyzewski stood by his usual plan of leaving a couple of hours before the game for the short drive down from Durham. Of course, given the snowfall that unfolded between 1pm and 4pm, by then the roads were completely impassable. Duke informed the league that they couldn’t make the trip, and the ACC officially controversially postponed the game at 5:40pm, to much hilarity on Twitter. The game was rescheduled for the following Thursday.
Duke’s lack of planning resulted in the Blue Devils facing three games in five days, their showdown with the Heels now being sandwiched between a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech and their return game in Durham vs. Syracuse, which may as well have been hyped by ESPN to be the Thrilla in Manila, Magic vs. Bird, and the Miracle on Ice all wrapped into one college basketball game. The Dookies were suddenly a little busy. Carolina’s workload was also cramped, with a Saturday-Monday turnaround preceding the game, in which they dispatched Pitt and Florida State in close games, the latter on the road. That stretched the Tar Heels’ winning streak to seven, adding a little more fuel to the fire when Duke actually made it to the Smith Center on Thursday.
To say the Smith Center was juiced for this one would be an understatement. The eight day wait had felt like an eternity, and while the crowd wasn’t as student-heavy as it otherwise would’ve been the week prior, the people basked in the anticipation of this contest like a Doberman knowing its owner was coming home with steak in a doggy bag. The hottest Dean Dome gathering in years met the now fifth ranked Blue Devils and the Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead in the first minute. Duke wouldn’t stay down long, and Rodney Hood went off, scoring 11 of Duke’s 14 points over a three minute stretch after the first TV timeout to give Duke an 18-12 edge. The Tar Heels would stay close, but would only reclaim the lead once in the remainder of the half, on a Leslie McDonald layup, and Duke would end the half on a 6-2 spurt to take a 37-30 lead at the break.
The game would get weird in the second half. After going bucket for bucket to open the second session, back to back threes by Hood and Quinn Cook pushed Duke’s lead to nine, and a Jabari Parker basket with 15:10 to go would give Duke a 51-40 lead. At that point, Roy Williams decided to go into the ol’ bag of tricks, employing a combination of defenses to knock Duke out of its offensive rhythm, and switching between a 3-2 and a 1-3-1 zone was the answer. It would be nine minutes of game time before the Blue Devils made another field goal. The problem was that Carolina wasn’t filling it up either, as the Tar Heels only managed an 11-2 run, though it was more like a brisk walk, during Duke’s stretch of futility.
Cook finally got a layup out of the TV timeout to make it 55-51 with a little over six minutes to play, but Marcus Paige sank a three from the left wing to pull Carolina within one with 5:20 left, and anyone who hadn’t already been standing for the slow Carolina comeback was now on their feet and the Smith Center was an asylum the rest of the way home. After Cook answered with his own three, with the help of a generous bounce off the rim, McDonald drained two free throws and a James Michael McAdoo layup tied the game with 4:24 remaining in the game. The Duke lead was gone, and Krzyzewski wanted time. But Cook would miss the front end of a one and one, and the Tar Heels pulled ahead 62-60 on a long McDonald jumper from in front of the Carolina bench. That score would hold into the final TV timeout with under three minutes to go.
Paige hit a jumper off the right elbow out of the timeout, and Parker would match him with a pair of free throws, setting up the signature moment of the game. Paige isolated against Cook at the top of the key, drove him straight down the lane toward his right, then switched back to his left at the last second for a layup, high off the glass, among a sea of Duke arms, that fell thru the net as the Carolina point guard fell into the basket stanchion. 66-62 Tar Heels, and the Dookies would never get closer. Nate Britt drilled four clutch free throws to keep the Blue Devils at bay, and the defense made one more play, causing a tie-up that gave the ball back to Carolina, and McDonald got the last of his 21 points on a fastbreak layup when UNC broke Duke’s press, capping off a tremendous second half effort and bringing a week’s worth of anticipation to a satisfying conclusion.
The Carolina winning streak would run to 12 before the Blue Devils bested the Tar Heels in the rematch in Durham, in which Carolina fell way behind, clawed back to single digits with two minutes left, but couldn't get over the hump. The Heels would fall in the ACC Quaterfinals to Pitt while Duke lost to Virginia in the conference title game. Duke would be upset by Mercer in the first round of the NCAA's, but Carolina would also go home on opening weekend, blowing a late lead and losing to Iowa State in the final seconds.
I'll be back after Thanksgiving to hit #11 thru #15, where we'll see OT classics, some clutch Carolina shots, and grand larceny of the highest order.
In celebration of the Smith Center's 30th season, I'm counting down the 30 best Carolina games ever to be played in the House That Dean Built. If you missed Part 1, you should go check it out. Three Carolina losses in the first five games on the list? Yup. There aren't many more.
“The Snow Game.”
It’s possibly the most random game on this list. There wasn’t a memorable finish. There wasn’t a ridiculous individual performance. It wasn’t a back and forth war. But the story of the Dean E. Smith Center cannot be told without this contest.
Carolina entered this contest 11-8, 2-3 in the ACC, and riding a four game losing streak. Two years removed from the Final Four, the 2000 Tar Heels appeared to be in a freefall, going from 6th in the AP poll to out entirely in the span of four weeks. With 22nd ranked Maryland, led by young studs Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, and Lonny Baxter, coming into Chapel Hill midweek, the Heels’ fortunes didn’t seem to be improving anytime soon. Though we’d find out otherwise two years later, this felt like rock bottom.
Then the snow started to fall.
The white stuff fell on Monday. Then Monday night. Then more fell on Tuesday. More than 16 inches had come down in Chapel Hill by the time it was all said and done, even more in the surrounding areas, and there was no way the game was being played as scheduled Wednesday night. Somehow, though, unlike another team just up the road 14 years of technological improvements later, Maryland made it to Chapel Hill, and the game was played 24 hours later, with roads around the Triangle in bad enough shape to leave probable attendance up in the air.
But for as many people who were trapped at home, there were thousands of students trapped on campus, needing something to pass the snow-covered time. And what better than a basketball game with Carolina’s season on the ropes? Thus, an unusually younger crowd occupied the lower bowl of the Smith Center on a Thursday night in January for a huge ACC showdown with the Terrapins. And the atmosphere was noticeably different from the opening tip.
The Terps rode out a quick 6-0 start by Carolina, got ahead by as much as 11, and led 41-34 at the half. The Tar Heels managed to stay close only by a 15-16 effort at the stripe. But early in the second half, everything came together. With the Terps up 47-45, Terence Morris drained a corner three with Jason Capel’s hand in his face to push the Maryland lead back to five. Kris Lang, still recovering from a respiratory virus, instantly answered with a dunk. Julius Peppers would knock away a Maryland pass, and Joseph Forte would find Capel for a layup, and then Max Owens would nail a three from the left corner to give Carolina a 52-50 lead. The Terps would turn it over again, and the teams would exchange possessions before Ed Cota swished a three from the top of the key. Then, Brendan Haywood would drain a short jumper in the paint to make it 57-50 UNC with 11:00 left to play, and Lang got a hook shot on a pretty feed from Cota to cap the 14-0 run and send the Dean Dome into a frenzy.
The Terps weren’t done, and a putback jam by Baxter with 9:00 left pulled Maryland back within five. It would hover around that margin until Dixon got a bucket on a drive to bring the Terrapins back to within 62-60. But a Peppers layup and a Haywood rebound jam off a Cota miss would push the Heels away for good. Haywood finished with 23 points, Carolina won 75-63, and the students stormed the court afterward – a strange thing to do when you’re a perennial power and the opponent is not even ranked in the top 20, but given the bizarre circumstances, it actually made sense.
This Maryland bunch would ultimately accomplish big things. While they’d only reach the second round of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, they would advance to the Final Four the two seasons afterward, and captured the 2002 NCAA Title. Carolina wouldn’t entirely turn the season around on this game, but it would right the ship long enough in March to make a run to the Final Four as an 8 seed. But the lasting impression from this contest came the following season, when new coach Matt Doherty, pointing to this game as rationale, was finally able to work out a deal with the Rams Club to get a sizeable student section in the lower bowl for the first time in the 15 year history of the arena.
There were some lofty expectations placed upon the 2006-07 Tar Heels. The totally overhauled Heels had struggled early the prior season, but rallied to run the table in the back half of the conference schedule – including spoiling J.J. Redick’s Senior Night in Durham – only to get upset in the second round of the NCAA’s. With the core of that group back, and a tremendously loaded incoming freshmen class, Carolina was picked by many to make a return to the Final Four. This game, the main event in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, was their first marquee showdown.
The Heels had been punched in the mouth already, having been upset by Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden in the Preseason NIT semifinals the week prior, so the jury was still out on just how good this bunch was. With top ranked Ohio State coming to the Smith Center, Carolina would have their chance to impress the nation in a much-hyped, primetime, ESPN affair. The Buckeyes may have been the #1 team in the nation, but they, too, were vulnerable, as ballyhooed freshman big man Greg Oden was not ready for action yet, still recovering from wrist surgery in the offseason, forcing Ohio State to run with a small lineup.
The result was a track meet, which is exactly how Roy Williams likes it.
The Bucks got out in front early, scooting to a 12-4 lead after Ron Lewis’ three point play that quickly sent Carolina freshman center Brandan Wright to the bench with his second foul before the first TV timeout. The Heels pounded it inside to stay close, with buckets by Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, and Alex Stepheson, but Ohio State would go on an 11-4 spurt behind hot shooting from Lewis and Daequan Cook to go up 33-23 going into the under eight timeout. Then the Heels swung back again, getting back to back threes from Bobby Frasor and a big jam by Hansbrough to cut the margin back to two and get Buckeyes’ head coach Thad Matta to call for time. Carolina would draw as close as one on a Danny Green jam on a nice pass from Frasor, but would get no closer before the half, with Ohio State taking a tenuous 48-44 lead into the locker room. The game was right where Roy wanted it.
Carolina jumped the Bucks right out of the gate in the second half, back to back Hansbrough buckets tied the game, and UNC would get its nose out front for the first time all night on a Reyshawn Terry follow up just over two minutes into the half, and Wayne Ellington would sink a three to make it a 9-0 run before the Bucks finally got on the board again. After another Ellington bomb, Ohio State streaked back, reclaiming the lead on three consecutive Ivan Harris threes, with three buckets from Wright keeping Ohio State from really stretching it out before the Buckeyes went cold again. Hansbrough would put Carolina back in front with a tough bucket in traffic with 8:29 left, and when Terry sank a three from the right wing in front of the bench, it capped off a 15-2 Carolina run, giving the Heels their biggest lead of the evening at 75-68.
Harris finally broke the run with a jumper the next time down, but that would ultimately be as close as Ohio State would get in the final seven minutes, as Ellington drained his third trey of the night the ensuing possession and the Heels would hit enough free throws down the stretch to keep the top ranked Bucks at bay. Ellington finished with 19, and Hansbrough put up 21 points to go along with 14 rebounds, taking advantage of the thin Ohio State front line. Ohio State’s Lewis led all scorers with 30. The victory marked the third consecutive season Carolina had defeated the #1 ranked team in the nation, and was another step toward their ultimate destiny: a national title two seasons later.
We didn’t know it at the time, but Coach Smith’s final game in the building that bears his name was Senior Day ’97. After starting 0-3 in ACC play, Carolina had flipped a switch in mid-January, running off 11 wins in their next 13 games, including the last eight heading into this one. Their last loss? A turnover-filled 80-73 decision at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Duke had finally snapped a seven game slide against the Tar Heels.
Wake Forest was upset the day prior in Tallahassee, giving the Blue Devils the ACC regular season title and finalizing both teams’ ACC Tournament seeding, taking a tad of the luster off yet another showdown between Top 10 teams. But it was still Carolina-Duke, so it still mattered. Any question of whether it didn’t matter to Duke was answered early, when the Blue Devils jumped out to an 8-2 lead with the seldom-used Carolina seniors were on the floor. Duke would keep the Tar Heels at bay early with a barrage of three point shots, going up as much as eight half way thru the first half. Carolina continued to pound the ball inside to Antawn Jamison, finally getting even on an Ed Cota offensive rebound and putback, then going in front with a classic Cota to Jamison runout bucket with about 5:00 left in the first half.
The run would get to 12-0 before Trajan Langdon hit another three for Duke, the long ball being the only thing keeping Duke from getting blown out. Carolina would stretch the lead out to 14 before Duke hit back to back threes in the final minute, and the Tar Heels took a 49-40 lead into the locker room. Duke would chip away early in the second half, closing within five before a Jamison jam and layup on back to back trips swung the pendulum back in Carolina’s direction. The Blue Devils would punch back, and after Ricky Price converted a three point play with 11:15 to play, Duke found itself back at 61-58. But Carolina was relentless on the boards, ultimately outrebounding Duke 49-18, and it was a rebounding scrum that saw Duke’s Roshawn McLeod get tangled up with teammate Greg Newton and knock the ACC Player of the Year out of the game.
The Heels would take off on another spurt, running the lead out to 82-69 with 5:30 remaining on a “Cota Floata” off a loose ball melee. The Blue Devils had one final push, getting the rare five point play with a Price three and simultaneous loose ball “foul” on Jamison for supposedly sending Langdon to the floor when battling for rebounding position – 17 feet from the hoop – to slash the lead to six. And when Jeff Capel drained ANOTHER three in the corner off a Tar Heel turnover, the lead was suddenly down to four with 1:51 to go. But, within striking distance, Duke would badly miss their final two three point attempts of the afternoon, and Carolina would hit their free throws in the final minute for the final margin.
Duke’s season crumbled after the loss, getting upset, as the top seed, in the ACC quarterfinals by NC State, then getting bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round by Providence. Carolina would stay hot, running the table in Greensboro to capture the ACC Tournament, earning the #1 seed in the NCAA East Regional. En route to the Final Four, the Tar Heels made Coach Smith the winningest head coach in college basketball history with their second round win over Colorado in Winston-Salem. The dream died in Indianapolis in a semifinal loss to Arizona.
In a rivalry filled with tense moments, this one was as close as it’s gotten to a full scale brawl since the days of Larry Brown and Art Heyman back in the 60’s. In the course of battle, players may get into it – which we’ll probably see later on this list – but when coaches go face to face ready to throw hands, you obviously have yourself a wild situation.
Carolina was desperately hanging on to a thread of NCAA Tournament hope when Duke came down 15-501 for Senior Day. A year removed from rock bottom, Matt Doherty had brought in a freshman class that was supposed to restore order to the program. Raymond Felton, Sean May, and Rashad McCants came in with high hopes, but after a promising start that included capturing the Preseason NIT crown and a semifinal win over Roy Williams’ final Kansas team, May broke his foot in a loss to Iona at the end of December. Facing the 3rd toughest schedule in the nation, Carolina would flounder around .500 the rest of the season, not quite the turnaround Tar Heels fans were looking for.
It was also a down year for Duke, though not to the depths Carolina had sunk. The 2003 Blue Devils were their only squad between 1998 and 2006 that wouldn’t enter the NCAA Tournament as a #1 seed, but they were still a formidable foe, nevertheless, led by wannabe tough guy, Rutgers transfer Dahntay Jones. Jones had developed a reputation in his two years in Durham, most notably breaking the jaw of Wake’s Justin Gray with a hard screen and dunking on some hapless Virginia defender (recommended for Brad Daugherty's call more than anything else) and doing pushups right next to him after everyone landed on the floor.
So when Jones sent Raymond Felton caroming into the scorer’s table as the two chased a loose ball in the second half, it wasn’t a surprise. And when Jones caught Felton with an “inadvertent” palm to the face when tracking a rebound with a little over eight minutes left, it was par for the course. (Why Jones would throw his hand behind him when the ball was in front of him, I’ll let you decipher.) The officials decided that there was no foul, despite the fact that Felton fell to the floor with a bloody mouth. Doherty walked down to the Duke end of the court, where Felton was still down on the court. The Carolina trainers got the young point guard up and headed back toward the bench on his own power.
Then all hell broke loose.
As Doherty and the Tar Heels began to walk back toward the Carolina bench, Duke assistant and [insert derogatory noun here] Chris Collins said something to McCants. Doherty took offense to another coach talking to his players, particularly in the heat of such a moment, and turned and got in Collins’ face. As the coaches went face to face, Duke benchwarmer Andre Buckner (he of 27 career points) stepped out from the bench and shoved Doherty. McCants and Jawad Williams immediately jumped in between Bucker and Collins and Doherty and the referees pulled the two teams apart as Felton stormed back down the sideline, with the trainer still holding him by the back of his jersey. When the smoke cleared, Jones, Collins, and Buckner were all ejected and Carolina had free throws to shoot.
Oh wait, that’s right, nobody was even T’ed up after all of the shenanigans.
The game tensely continued, but after Duke tied the game with 2:30 to go, Carolina went ahead for good with a McCants three and a Jackie Manuel layup. Duke’s final chance to tie was a half court look from Jones, who sank a 45 footer a half second too late. The shot was waved off and the Heels survived. McCants finished with 26 points, and the wounded Felton turned in a heroic 18-8-10, two assists shy of a triple double.
The teams would meet one week later in the ACC semifinals, where Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins refused to shake Doherty’s hand before the game. The Dookies would win the rematch, and Doherty would be let go at the conclusion of the Tar Heels’ NIT run. Roy Williams would return home within weeks.
Oh, and Dahntay Jones would continue to be a punk his entire NBA career.
State finally makes an appearance on the list, fittingly during the 1988 campaign, the only season in the past 37 years that the Triangle schools finished 1-2-3 alone atop the conference. The Wolfpack came into the Smith Center on a five game winning streak, ranked 16th in the nation, having knocked off Duke at Cameron five days earlier when Chucky Brown picked off Danny Ferry’s outlet pass with seconds remaining. Carolina was 6th in the polls and had shot 66% in a victory over State at Reynolds 77-73 two weeks earlier. The teams were tied at 5-2 in the ACC, and a Carolina win would give the Tar Heels the season sweep and put Carolina in the driver’s seat for the conference crown.
State jumped Carolina from the tip, going up as much as 32-19 in the first half. Young Rodney Monroe would begin to earn is “Ice” moniker, among a trio of Wolfpack players who tallied eight points in the first half, including two threes, as State shot 65% to start the game. Carolina couldn’t get out of its own way, turning the ball over nine times and leaving cheese at the foul line to the tune of 56%. The Wolfpack, however, would go cold in the final five minutes, and the Heels went on a run to end the half, capped off by a Kevin Madden three pointer, drawing Carolina within a point, 35-34, at the break.
The Tar Heels stayed hot out of the locker room, going out front for the first time on a Ranzino Smith jumper from the elbow, then continuing to pour it on. The freshmen would get involved in the second half, with Rick Fox getting a baseline jam to put the Heels up five, Pete Chilcutt getting an offensive board and putback to make it seven, and Fox driving baseline and bringing down the house with a facial on both Brown and Charles Shackleford to make it 49-41, as State scored nine points in about 15 minutes of game time. Jimmy V switched up defenses to try to slow down Carolina, going to a triangle and two (presumably while Carolina assistant Roy Williams was in the bathroom or something) on Jeff Lebo and J.R. Reid.
Lebo wouldn’t let State set their defense, though, finding Chilcutt and Ranzino on outlet passes in transition for layups to push the lead to double digits for the first time. Only long balls from Vinny Del Negro and Chris Corchiani finally stalled the Tar Heel momentum momentarily, but Scott Williams would join in on the fun, also dunking on Shackleford. A long Ranzino jumper makes it 61-53 with about five minutes left and it feels like Carolina’s night. However, with the lead still eight with under three minutes left, the Wolfpack finally put together a big defensive stop, forcing an awful desperation heave by Williams to avoid a shot clock violation, and State’s Brian Howard would get fouled on an offensive rebound on the other end with two minutes to play. Howard missed the first shot, but was apparently the only player on the court who realized it was a 1-and-1 situation and sprinted into the lane and immediately laid it back in for two, leaving everyone in the building confused and dumbfounded.
That bizarre bucket would trigger a State rally. Steve Bucknall continued his struggles at the line, only making one of two freebies, and Monroe answered with a short jumper in traffic to cut the UNC lead to 65-60 with 1:26 to go. Valvano directs his guys to foul Bucknall again, but this time Bucknall hits both. State still comes out a point ahead on the transaction, however, when Monroe drains a three pointer to make it 67-63. Reid is the lucky recipient of the intentional foul this time down, and misses the front end of the 1-and-1, and a baseline jumper by Brown pulls State within two with the shot clock turned off. Before looking to foul, the Wolfpack trapped, and it paid off when Brown jumped in front of a Bucknall pass up top, sending the Wolfpack big man of to the races. Brown missed the layup, but Corchiani was there for the tap in to tie the game with 22 seconds left. Lebo drove the lane to try to win the game, but the amphibious Shackleford swatted his layup out of bounds, and Lebo subsequent three at the horn found nothing but air, sending the game to an improbable overtime, tied at 67.
The teams traded buckets to open OT, Reid scoring on an alleyoop layup from Ranzino, and Brown getting a putback dunk on uncalled offensive goaltending. Williams got a dunk off the secondary break to put Carolina ahead 71-69 with 1:39 to go, and the third Tar Heel freshman, King Rice, would make two plays to seal the game. Valvano made the decision to not put the shaky freshman foul shooter at the line, and Rice made him pay, hitting Reid in the lane for a bucket to put the Heels up four with 35 seconds remaining. Del Negro sank two free throws to keep State within a possession, but Rice dribbled out of the half court trap and found Williams wide open at the basket for the jam to clinch it. Corchiani would hit a meaningless runner at the buzzer for the final tally.
Carolina would go on to win the ACC regular season crown, finishing ahead of runner-up NC State by one game. The Wolfpack wouldn’t get a rematch, falling in the ACC semifinals to Duke, who they’d swept in the regular season, and ultimately getting upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as a #3 seed, to Murray State. Carolina would reach the West regional final, where their shooting went stone cold, and dropped a 70-52 decision to a loaded Arizona squad in Seattle.
I'll be back in a week or so for the next five games, where we'll find Dookies being Dookies and VInce Carter dunking on fools.
This season will mark the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. The "Student Activities" portion of the name gets glossed over to this day, but the man for whom the building was named insisted that the facility was for the students at UNC. No matter what Coach Smith wanted, everyone, Carolina fans or otherwise, knows the arena to this day by its nickname: the Dean Dome.
The Smith Center has been home to 10 ACC regular season champions, 7 ACC Tournament Champions, 9 Final Four squads, and 3 NCAA Champions. It has seen its share of great basketball since it opened January 18, 1986. The Tar Heels are 363-66 in nearly thirty years at the Dean Dome, and I've taken a look at all of them to find the thirty best Carolina games ever played in the building.
This has been a ridiculously fun project to undertake, and I find it interesting how some games are so easily accessible, while others are curiously difficult to find anecdotes and/or video online. You may notice some differences in the game details with direct correlation to such information. I will roll out the full list in parts over the next month, heading into the tip off of the 2015-16 Carolina basketball season. But before we get too far, here are a few games that didn't make the cut:
I looked at stakes, quality of competition, conference relevancy, how memorable the finish was, and what the game meant to that particular Carolina team. It wasn't an exact science, but I think the results were ultimately pretty fair. There were a few surprises, and, as you'll see in this portion of the list, a few Tar Heels losses, as well. Jump Around and let's get this list going...
The first game on our list prominently features one of my all-time favorite Tar Heels: Carlisle, Pennsylvania’s Jeff Lebo. Lebo had inherited ballhandling duties from graduating All-American Kenny Smith, the engine that made the tremendously talented ’87 squad click. Lebo wasn’t a natural point guard, but rather a long distance sniper. The shooting guard-turned-point guard put it all together in a stone cold closeout of Georgia Tech on this Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
Carolina tied up what had been a nip and tuck contest at 58 on a J.R. Reid spinning one hander in the paint with 6:00 remaining. The Jackets answered with three quick buckets: a Duane Ferrell tap in, a Brian Oliver tap in off a turnover and runout, and another Ferrell bucket in traffic to give Tech a six point lead with four minutes and change to go. Then Lebo took complete control of the game, starting with a three from the left wing to draw Carolina back to 64-61. Little did Tech know what was coming.
After Scott Williams rebounded a Tom Hammonds miss, Lebo drove the lane and dished it back out, then quietly slipped to the left corner, and Ranzino Smith made the extra pass to Lebo, who drained the three from the corner to tie the game. Timeout Jackets. Oliver sank two free throws to put Georgia Tech back in front, but then Lebo ran a give and go out of a baseline inbound set with Williams and the junior guard sank his third consecutive three pointer, this one right in front of the Carolina bench, giving the Heels a 67-66 lead.
Tech refused to go away quietly, and Hammonds converted a three point play to put the Jackets back up by two with two minutes to play. But after Tech fouled Reid, Lebo and Williams ran the exact same inbound play, this time with a pick from Ranzino, and Lebo drained another three, in the same spot in front of the bench to put Carolina back on top with 1:35 to go. Tech threw another haymaker, this one an Oliver jumper from the top of the key, with hand in face, to give the Jackets the lead yet again with one minute to play. Timeout Carolina.
Lebo took the inbound pass and left it for Williams at the top of the key, then drifted back toward the bench, where Williams found him with a skip pass over the defense, and Lebo sank his fifth straight three pointer, his third straight from the bench, putting the Tar Heels ahead 73-71 with 45 seconds left. The Yellow Jackets had the opportunity to take the final shot to tie or win the game, but nothing opened up, forcing Bobby Cremins to call for time with just five seconds left. After Rick Fox knocked the first inbound pass out of bounds, Fox got his hand on the second inbound pass, sending it caroming off Williams’ chest. Williams leapt out of bounds and saved the ball between his legs right to Lebo, fittingly, as time expired. If you weren’t counting, Lebo sank three pointers on five consecutive possessions, the final five of the contest, to seal the game for Carolina – just a tremendous performance.
The first of several trademark Carolina comebacks on the list, this one came days after the Heels pulled one of the biggest upsets in Smith Center history – a game which, obviously, appears much higher on this list. The Tar Heels were emotionally spent coming into this one, and it showed, as the Demon Deacons raced out to a 22 point lead in the first eleven minutes, bookended by a 180 jam by Rodney Rogers and a huge Trelanne Owens dunk, spotting Wake to a 32-10 lead.
Carolina managed to whittle the deficit to 48-33 at the half, but could only chip another four points off that margin over the ensuing 14 minutes, and senior Hubert Davis hit two free throws to cut the Deacons’ lead to 75-66 with six minutes to play. The game finally turned on the next Wake possession as Owens went up for a rebound and possible putback, but held onto the rim, playground style, in doing so, drawing a pretty easy technical foul. Davis hit two more freebies, and then Derrick Phelps got away on a runout and (you’re not gonna believe this) got taken out hard as he went up by Owens, who made a legit play on the ball, but sent Phelps flying off balance and hard to the floor. Phelps left the game, leaving Henrik Rodl to take, and make, both free throws, bringing the Tar Heels within five points with plenty of time left.
Carolina would pull closer on Davis jumper with 3:30 to go, giving Hubert a career high 30 on the afternoon, and Kevin Salvadori would sink a beautiful turnaround baseline jumper moments later to cut what had been a 22 point lead down to 75-74, capping off a 10-0 run. Wake finally answered with a three point play by Chris King, but Carolina kept the Smith Center in a frenzy as Brian Reese drove the left baseline for a big dunk in traffic. Then Reese forced a Wake turnover, giving Carolina the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead, but the Heels turned it over trying to feed Eric Montross. After George Lynch fouled out of the game the next time down, Phelps returned to the game, and Rogers, with chants of “Roddddd-neeeey” echoing thru the Dean Dome, missed both free throws. Donald Williams would then get whistled for a weak offensive foul on a scrum that probably should’ve been a jump ball.
Wake, with another chance to go up two possessions, bricked again, and Pat Sullivan got hacked in the paint with 36 seconds left. Two free throws later, the game was tied. The Deacons had the ball, one shot to win or go to overtime – Carolina had a foul to give, and used it to set up the trap. Wake wasn’t ready for it, and called timeout, and they still weren’t completely prepared for it, because on the ensuing play, Reese and a gang of Tar Heels rushed to trap again at the baseline, and Phelps came up with the ball with 15 seconds to go. Dean wanted time to set up the final shot, and Reese took the inbound pass beyond half court and drove straight to the hoop. The runner rimmed off, but the rebound went right back to Reese in the middle of the paint, and he gathered the ball toward the right wing and drained a 15 footer to win the game as time expired, capping off another patented Dean Smith comeback.
P.S. If anyone knows why Carolina shot at the opposite end of where they usually do in this game, let me know.
Oddly enough, as important this game would be to some teams, finding much about it online 27 years later is quite difficult. It’s one of the last Carolina/Duke games of which I have no personal recollection, and given the outcome, that’s probably a good thing. Second ranked Carolina entered the game 13-1, its only defeat coming in Nashville to Vanderbilt 78-76, and had only lost once in its new digs since opening two season prior. Duke was ranked ninth, 10-2, and was dealing with local buzz about its defensive prowess, or lackthereof, particularly being tasked with slowing down hot Carolina shooting. Well, the Blue Devils showed up this night, shutting down the Tar Heels’ long distance touch, conceding 27 points inside to J.R. Reid. Carolina found itself down 11 point with 13 minutes to play and staged a rally, holding Duke to no field goals over the final seven minutes of the game. But the Heels missed four shots that could’ve won the game in the final 30 seconds, including Jeff Lebo’s three from the corner at the buzzer, as Duke’s Robert Brickey got a hand on it, giving Duke the upset win, only Carolina’s second loss ever at the Smith Center. It would be the first of three Duke wins over UNC in 1988, setting the stage for the rivalry to explode in ’89, and speaking of which…
“J.R. Can’t Reid.”
That was the storyline that reignited the smoldering Carolina-Duke rivalry in the late 80’s. The Heels had taken 14 of the 19 meetings between the two schools in the 80’s thru the end of the 1987 season, but it was clear that Duke was poising the most serious long-term run at Carolina’s ACC dominance in the Dean Smith era, especially after Duke swept the series in ’88, not just the two regular season games, but also tripping up the Tar Heels for the ACC Tournament crown - three straight wins in the rivalry that sent shock waves thru Tobacco Road. Fresh off their second Final Four in three seasons, the Blue Devils’ clout was growing nationally, as was that of their student section: the Cameron Crazies. Sure, they’ve become a caricature of themselves now, but in the late 80’s, the Crazies were legitimately the most venomous fans in all of the land, exemplified in a sign held up at Cameron Indoor Stadium during the first meeting of the season reading “J.R. Can’t Reid.” It was gasoline on the fire, as Dean took greatest offense to opposing fans’ (especially those of the team down the road) calling out the academics of his players. Carolina blew out Duke in Durham, ending Duke’s winning streak in the series, but the issue lingered over the remainder of the season like a lurking storm cloud, as Reid’s statistics were seen by the media as slipping, despite Carolina’s gaudy win-loss record, and stories emerged (exaggerated to whatever extent) of discontent in the Heels’ locker room.
The rematch came on Senior Day for a hobbled Jeff Lebo, playing with a bum ankle, scoresheet stuffer Steve Bucknall, and the class of ’89, with Duke trying to spoil Carolina’s attempt at claiming half of the conference regular season title. Of course, a tie for first place would’ve already been clinched had the Heels put away Georgia Tech in Atlanta days before, but the Dennis Scott Game happened, leaving fifth ranked Carolina having to fend off ninth ranked Duke. The Heels led for most of the first half, sparked by Rick Fox’s energy off the bench, but Duke finally edged out front on a Clay Buckley bucket with 4:30 to go in the first half. Duke wouldn’t get too far away, and Bucknall would drive for a layup at the horn to send the contest into the half with Duke holding a 41-39 lead.
Duke would stretch the lead out to seven early in the second half, but after a Robert Brickey jam was waved off on traveling, the Heels turned the tide. Two free throws by Lebo gave Carolina its first lead of the half, and Duke called for time after Pete Chilcutt got a big dunk to push UNC’s lead out to 57-53 with 12:30 remaining. Ultimately, the Heels would put together a 13-2 run to go ahead 70-60, but a cheap reach-in foul called on King Rice muffled the crowd, and Quin Snyder snapped the run with a three to pull the Devils within seven with seven minutes to play. That started an 8-0 run for Duke, but when Greg Koubek got the ball down low for what looked like a sure layup, Kevin Madden stuffed him from behind, and Fox got a tip in on the other end to give Carolina a little breathing room, 72-68, with just over four minutes to go.
But, of all the guys, it would be Danny Ferry to hit the big shot for Duke, sinking a high arcing corner three to give the lead back to Duke with 3:00 left. Bucknall would tie the game back up at 75 with two free throws, but Snyder answered again with another three, and Duke would extend the lead to five after an offensive foul on Madden. After Bucknall and Ferry exchanged buckets, Madden would use his ample posterior to make some room on a drop step and get a lay in to make it 82-79 Duke with 1:43 to go. Phil Henderson and Bucknall would trade 1 for 2’s from the stripe, and Brickey would get the roll on the front end of a 1-and-1 and sink the second one to press Duke’s lead back to five with a minute to play.
Bucknall would hit a hurried runner, only to see Henderson slip out on the Hail Mary pass to keep Duke’s lead at 87-82, which was then topped by Fox hitting a huge three from near the top of the key to cut the margin to two. Inexplicably, Ferry tripped over his own feet on the inbound pass, earning a whistle for traveling and giving the ball back to UNC with a chance to tie or take the lead. But Lebo’s entry pass to Reid would be tipped away. Snyder missed the front end, giving Carolina another shot, but this time it was Rice’s pass that got tipped away, and Koubek’s attempt to feed Henderson on the fastbreak would be deflected, and off Rice’s foot out of bounds by the Duke bench. But each team wasn’t finished trying to give the game away, as Ferry’s long pass into the backcourt went over Snyder’s head, and Rice scooped it up and went to the rim, fouled by Snyder as the ball rolled off the rim. Despite Dean’s pleas for an intentional foul, Rice, an 81% shooter, was left with two pressure packed free throws to tie the game with three seconds remaining. The first one rattled home; the second one did not, rebounded by Brickey, who would hit his first free throw on the other end, then intentionally miss the second, leaving the Heels to do nothing but heave an 80 footer, which sailed wide at the buzzer, giving NC State the conference title
Carolina, of course, would famously get revenge and the season series one week later in Atlanta in arguably the greatest ACC Final of the modern era, 77-74, when Duke had to heave a prayer the length of the court, and Ferry’s try perilously clanged off the front of the rim. State became the first one seed to lose in the ACC quarters.
The Len Bias Game.
Four words, and nothing else needs to be said. Singlehandedly, on a Thursday night in February, a manchild went into the brand spanking new Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center and knocked off the 25-1, top ranked all season, North Carolina Tar Heels. This game is talked about 29 years later, and it’s probably quite too low on this list. There was a method to the madness, but what the method may not have accounted for was a legacy-defining game by an opposing player. That’s precisely what this game was for Len Bias.
This was a dominant Carolina team, its only blemish to date being a loss to Virginia in Charlottesville. The Heels had ascended to the top of the polls in the second week of the season and had stayed there all year. Kenny Smith, who somehow over the years has become maybe the most underrated player in school history, ran point and had all sorts of weapons at his disposal. Steve Hale, a dude who was freakishly athletic for an unassuming white guy with classic 80’s hair, was all over the place, on the give and go, making defensive plays on Bias, and doing a little bit of everything. They also had the soon-to-be overall #1 pick in the NBA Draft, Brad Daugherty, who put up 20 points and change in the game. All-ACC Joe Wolf could always be trusted to get buckets. And freshman Jeff Lebo was coming off the bench and doing all of the little things.
None of them were Bias.
Bias was persistent on the offensive end, carrying the Terps for long stretches, and looking like Lebron James showed up to the Dean Dome in a time machine. The gap in athletic ability between him and everyone else on the court was, and is to this day, mindboggling. He put up 14 in the first half, and he and the Terps managed to get to the free throw line enough (12/12 in the first half) to keep the game close, 37-32, thru 20 minutes.
A Smith jumper from the free throw line pushed Carolina’s lead to 48-40 about five minutes into the second half, but Bias kept plugging away, getting a reverse layup down the baseline to stem one Tar Heel charge, ultimately bringing Maryland to a 52-52 tie. As the ten minute mark passed, Carolina looked to go for the kill, running off a 16-7 spurt sparked by jumpers from Smith and a one handed jam from Daugherty, with Bias doing everything he could to keep the Terps close, getting back to the free throw line again, and then hitting a Duncan-esque bank shot from 14 feet. But free throws from Daugherty put the Heels ahead 68-59 with 3:00 left.
Then it happened, the signature moment of Len Bias’ career and the ultimate “what might’ve been” snapshot of a tragic character’s fate. Bias rose up (seriously, go watch the guy’s jumper) and sank an 18 footer, then streaked in like a flash of lightning, stealing the inbound pass and throwing down a 180 jam all in one motion. It’s one of the best plays you’ll ever see by any basketball player who has ever lived. And this guy just did it in a raucous environment against the #1 team in the nation.
Suddenly, it’s a five point game, and Daugherty threw it away, giving Jeff Baxter a runout for a finger roll, cutting the Carolina lead to three, the Terps having scored six points in twelve seconds. Even Four Corners wouldn’t work now, as Hale missed a cutting layup. Finally, Bias’ aggressiveness gets the better of him, as Lebo held his ground and drew a charge in the lane, but he’d only make one of two from the line, making the score 69-65 with a minute to go. Bias came back again, this time with a contested 20 footer to cut the deficit to two, but Carolina broke the press and after Lefty Drissell finally realized there wasn’t enough difference between the shot clock and the game clock to get a stop and a shot, so the Terps sent Smith, and 80% shooter, back to the line for a 1-and-1 with nine seconds left. Mike Patrick and Dan Bonner did everything but go and stand in front of Smith with a broom, and sure enough, Smith missed the front end, giving Maryland the chance to tie, and while Bias never touched the ball, Baxter sank a 20 footer with two seconds left to force overtime.
The extra session began sloppy, and Hale found Wolf on a drive for a layup to push Carolina in front 72-71 with 2:00 remaining. Bias answered with a double pump jumper in traffic, the 34th and 35th points of his evening, and Smith’s jumper to reclaim the lead rattled off. Carolina turned up the defensive pressure, resulting in a loose ball near midcourt. As Hale and Bias went down to the floor for the ball, Hale collided awkwardly with Bias’ left knee, and the officials stopped the game to allow Hale to get help from the trainer. Lefty wasn’t happy with Carolina being granted time when Maryland had possession, and sure enough, Daugherty stole in the inbound pass with 58 seconds left, setting up UNC for a shot to take the lead and maybe win the game. Bias had other ideas.
Hale would re-enter the game (which is crazy considering we’d find out later he had a punctured lung) and the game wound up in Smith hands, and the junior from Queens drove the lane, only to get swatted away by Bias. Keith Gatlin would sink two free throws, then successfully run a “throw it off the opponent’s back” inbound play for an easy layup after a final Heels turnover, supplying the Terps with the winning margin of 77-72.
Bias’ 35 points are still an ACC record for an opponent in the Smith Center, tied just last season by Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The only opposing player to score more than Bias? LaSalle’s Lionel Simmons, who rang up 37 in a game two years later.
I'll have the next five games on the list next week, and you can believe that there aren't many more Carolina losses on this list.
If 24 "student-athletes" take a stand tonight, everything changes. For better or worse.
Imagine this scene.
It's 9:00pm Eastern time. 70,000 fans, mostly wearing Kentucky blue, have filled AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The bands are playing. The cheerleaders flipping. The media praying that their network connection functions properly for the next 150 minutes. Millions of televisions are tuned to CBS for the NCAA National Championship, Wildcats and Huskies.
Jim Nantz brings us in live to the traditional CBS Monday Night pregame coverage, Prelude to a Championship. However, rather than convey the excitement and the tension in the building on a cool, Texas evening, Nantz has a bombshell: the players came on the court for warmup, returned to the locker rooms after shootaround, and they are NOT returning until the NCAA institutes widespread change. Immediately.
Twitter melts down. The internet implodes. CBS phones light up across the country. The media, the same ones relying on that spotty service on press row, scrambles for every source imaginable, for the biggest story in college sports history is unfolding, in real time, before a worldwide audience. The NCAA has approximately 20 minutes to figure this out.
What happens now?
What can Mark Emmert concede before the first scheduled commercial break of the game? How much of that Buffalo Wild Wings advertising dollar would the NCAA be willing to split in order to avoid the public humiliation of their compensated-below-market-value labor pulling the organization's pants down on live television? How much of that vice grip on athlete freedom would the NCAA relinquish in order to escape North Texas with its dignity, if not its integrity and pride. The clock is ticking before the sponsors will be demanding their money back, money that has already been earmarked for private jets, luxury mansions, and 18 down at Augusta.
Nantz sends it up to Ernie Johnson and company, who are all abuzz at the shocking developments. After some quick takes from Kenny, Charles, and Clark Kellogg, we go down to Tracy Wolfson and Allie LaForce, who are working to get a scoop on the sidelines. John Calipari was not aware of any sort of boycott being prepared, while Kevin Ollie keeps it light, telling Allie, "College kids these days!," with a big smile on his face before returning to the locker room. Ernie sends us to commercial.
AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Buick, some of the NCAA's "corporate champions," have spots during this break. Perhaps the threat of a boycott has brought extra eyeballs to the screen in the last few minutes, so maybe a boycott actually HELPS the advertisers during these early breaks. But does the "corporate champion" tag given to them by the NCAA hurt them in the public's eyes, a public probably more likely to tune in to see the boycott takes a giant shot at the organization?
Johnson brings us back from the break, not awkwardly, because Ernie Johnson is a pro, but definitely not with a smooth segue into previewing the game and getting picks from his panel. Do we preview a game that might not happen? How much do we speculate about the boycott? There's clearly not a lot of information available right now. Greg Gumbel's crew courtside offers little more into the matter, but with some interesting takes from Grant Hill and Seth Davis. We go back to Nantz, who informs the nation that NCAA President Mark Emmert will be addressing the situation with a press conference somewhere inside AT&T Stadium in the next ten minutes. Will he make concessions now? Or is he standing his ground and refunding the gate and the advertising revenue for tonight? The clock is ticking. Three... two...one...
Unlike its football parallel played on a Monday Night in January, the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship is where the players could really hit the organization where it hurts. The National Championship is the marquee NCAA sanctioned event on the calendar each year - the BCS is outside of direct NCAA control. For an organization that bankrolls nearly all of its operations through a three week journey called March Madness, how ironic that it could all be brought down...
...with a buzzer beater at the Final Four.
Remember when delusional Kentucky fans actually thought that THIS group of freshmen was so awesome that they could actually complete the season with an undefeated national championship? They just did the job last week to Arkansas at RUPP ARENA and then to a pitiful South Carolina squad. Then this happened:
Some might wonder why these haven't already been delivered to some remote third world country. Others would argue that they already have been. Way to coach em up, Calipari!
Last year, we released the template for SEC Football 2014. 14 teams, 14 towns, 1 culture of college football. Well, 6YS is back with the first of what's sure to be many sequels...
What happens when you take 14 of the most hyper-competitive head coaches in sports and put them in a series of winner take all fights to the death? We answer that question in SEC SIDELINE CARNAGE! Follow the destruction across 14 college campuses and discover what NCAA violations SEC Head Coaches will commit when their lives, let alone the SEC Championship, are at stake!
Will Bret Bielema bring a freezer of slabs of beef to the fight? Can Gus Malzahn concoct a strategy to render his opponents gasping for oxygen? What will Les Miles pull out of his mysterious hat? And is Nick Saban indeed Satan himself?
The REAL tournament starts March 18!
Somebody online made up this mock poster for the Royal Rumble consisting of nothing but dead wrestlers. One look at the lineup tells me that this would be a dandy...
So I did what any normal old school wrestling fan would do... I booked and wrote the whole thing. Hat tip to our boys over at Monday Night Flaw, particularly Andy Gaston and James Ryan, for the idea. Catch JR and myself over there every few weeks for our Time Limit Draw retro wrestling podcast. On to the main event of the evening.
Joey Marella, Pee Wee Anderson, and Mark Curtis are our officials on the floor. Gorilla Monsoon is on commentary. God Save the Queen! The British Bulldog draws #1. He hopes to fare better out of that slot than he did at the ’92 Rumble. Monster pop for #2, as Macho Man Randy Savage, with Miss Elizabeth by his side, will have to go the distance if he wants to win the Rumble. Davey Boy overpowers Macho early with some shoulderblocks, and works in the delayed vertical suplex. Gorilla press looks to eliminate, but Savage goes to the eyes to break and a high knee from behind knocks Bulldog over, but not to the floor. Davey Boy rolls back in as the horn sounds for #3 and it’s Bam Bam Bigelow! Headbutts for both guys as the Beast From The East tosses both guys around. Savage turns the tide with a running back elbow, but Davey Boy takes his head off with a clothesline – solidifying his position as a heel in this match – and he and Bam Bam go to dump Macho. But #4 makes the save as Kerry Von Erich hits the ring. They pair off with the Texas Tornado getting the better of the Bulldog, while Bam Bam works over Savage in the corner. Davey Boy ducks the discus punch, and an atomic drop sends Kerry over the top, but the Tornado hangs on. The ’89 champion, Big John Studd is #5. Equal opportunity asskicker, Studd lays everyone out and Savage eats the big boot choke in the corner. Bulldog and Bam Bam team up to tackle Studd, but a double clothesline stops that idea. Tornado charges and gets backdropped over, but again Kerry hangs on. Finally, Savage clips Studd’s knee to take the big man down and the other four guys put the boots to him… until the heels deck Savage and Von Erich with right hands to lay them out.
Buzzer sounds for #6 and it’s the self-proclaimed World’s Strongest Man, Dino Bravo. Dino smells blood and instantly helps Bam Bam go after Von Erich. Hoss beatdown in the corner and Dino throws Kerry THRU the ropes to the floor and celebrates like an idiot. He turns around and meets Studd’s boot to his face, and Studd tosses Bravo like a sack of potatoes over the top and to the floor for the first elimination at 9:27. Quick night for Dino. Savage finally gets the upper hand on the Bulldog and goes nuts on everyone, but a crossbody try on Studd results in a big fallaway slam, sending the Macho Man tumbling out between the bottom and middle ropes to the floor. Crash Holly is #7 and he kicks Savage on the floor before entering the ring. Crash eats a Discus Punch from the Tornado IMMEDIATELY, and Crash sells it like he’s been hit by a truck, tumbling back out to the floor thru the ropes. Bam Bam and Bulldog team up on Studd some more to no avail before Kerry drags Bulldog away, leaving Bam Bam and Studd for a showdown in the middle of the ring. Shoulderblocks get nothing, clotheslines get nothing, and Studd finally gets the upper hand on a test of strength before Bigelow kicks him in the nuts. But then Savage flies in out of nowhere with the double axehandle on Bam Bam and mounts him for right hands.
Buzzer sounds for #8 and Ludvig Borga rushes the ring and jumps the Macho Man. Kerry bulldogs the Bulldog but eats a spinebuster from Bam Bam. Crash crawls back up on the apron, but Borga tries to toss Savage, and Macho hits Crash on the way over, sending Crash flying into the barricade. Studd splashes Borga in the corner, but Bam Bam sneaks up from behind and dumps Studd over and out at 13:38! Bulldog goes after Savage and gets some help from Bam Bam, but #9 is “Gentleman” Chris Adams, who makes the save for Savage. Superkick for Bulldog. Superkick for Bam Bam. Superkick for Borga. Crash rolls back in… SUPERKICK FOR CRASH, sending him back to the floor. Staredown with Von Erich, and Adams tries the superkick again, but Kerry catches it applies the Iron Claw instead! A well placed kick to the groin breaks that up, however. Macho heads to the top and drills Borga with the Flying Elbow Drop, and his elimination is academic at 15:30. Crash sneaks in and jumps on Savage’s back for a sleeper, but Macho calmly flips him over his shoulders, and over the top rope to end Crash’s night at 15:48. Time for #10 and it’s Badstreet USA’s representation in the Rumble, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy . To the surprise of nobody, Gordy goes right after Von Erich… but gets cut off by Bigelow before he can get there. It’s a showdown of the Bam Bam’s! Slugout ensues, with Gordy getting the upper hand. While Savage pounds on the Bulldog, Gordy stalks Von Erich and enlists the help of Adams to take out the Tornado. Gordy pulls out a roll of quarters, Adams holds Von Erich… and yep, Kerry moves and Gordy knocks Adams out cold! Discus punch for Gordy and Kerry tosses Adams’ carcass at 17:11. Before Kerry can do the same to Gordy, Bigelow wipes him out from behind. He goes for the elimination, but Gordy pulls him off, wanting to be the guy that dumps Von Erich. That breaks down into a shoving match and the Bam Bam’s go at it again, culminating in Kerry flying in with a crossbody from out of nowhere taking himself AND Gordy over the top and to the floor at 17:52, leaving the only first three participants in the ring until the horn sounds for #11…
G-R-A-B-T-H-E-M-C-A-K-E-S! Junkyard Dog enters the fray to a huge pop and he goes right after Bigelow, as JYD gets the better of a headbutt battle. Macho can’t quite get the Bulldog over, and JYD’s assistance doesn’t do the trick either. Bam Bam splashes both Savage and JYD in the corner to break up that sequence and Bigelow takes a breather as things slow down for #12 and it’s THE BIG BOSSMAN! Bossman goes to town on Bam Bam, then Bulldog, then Bam Bam some more. Bossman Slams for each guy, but SAVAGE jumps him, obviously not over being handcuffed to the ropes back at the 1988 Survivor Series and that whole Main Event tag team match. Macho loses his mind on Bossman, but the top rope double axehandle is counted by a Bossman uppercut, and Bossman and JYD clothesline Bulldog over the top, but Davey Boy slips back in. #13 is Test and he goes right after Bigelow, who’s now been in the ring for 20 minutes. Big boot for Savage, and he gets JYD with a pumphandle slam. Bossman and Test slug it out, but Savage decks both of them, resulting in Bulldog nailing Bossman with the running powerslam! Bigelow crotches Test on the turnbuckle, but the superplex is blocked as Test knocks Bam Bam to the mat… but the elbow drop misses. We get #14 and it’s Chris Candido and he is an equal opportunity offender, hitting everyone in his way, before piledriving Savage. Davey Boy kicks away at JYD in the corner and Bam Bam and Candido flash the Triple Threat sign and open up on the Bossman. Test and Savage trade shots before JYD fights back on the Bulldog, backdropping him over the top at the buzzer… and #15 is Owen Hart!
Owen runs to the ring and catches Davey Boy as he tumbles off the apron, saving him from elimination! JYD has no idea what’s happened, and the former tag team champions slide in from behind and dump an unsuspecting JYD to big boos at 26:21! Bossman battles back on Candido and Bam Bam, but gets blindsided by Test. This leaves a showdown in the middle of the ring between Owen and the Bulldog and Bam Bam and Candido and we have a tag team brawl! We see a couple of near eliminations before the horn sounds and the biggest heat of the night goes to Chris Benoit at #16. Benoit’s in to help his Canadian brethren and he puts the beats on Candido to bail out Owen before finding the Macho Man for some Canadian Violence. Chop city for Savage, and the Crippler spreads the wealth by giving Bossman and Test some chops, too. Owen and Bulldog can’t dump Bam Bam, and the Bossman finally slows down Benoit, getting him with the old “drape him on the middle rope, slide out, and uppercut the dude” spot. About 20 seconds before the buzzer’s set to go for #17, “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman rushes the ring with a chair and we basically have Hart Foundation Lite here, as Pillman, Benoit, Owen, and the Bulldog beat down everybody with authority. Pillman wears out Bam Bam with the chair. Savage gets tossed thru the ropes to the floor, and Owen and Pillman go to the floor and plant him with a spike piledriver on the concrete! Pillman laughs in Savage’s face as paramedics come down to check on the Macho Man. Benoit makes Candido tap to the Crossface and Bulldog powerslams Test. Then it’s a 4 man beatdown on the Bossman as the horn finally sounds for #18…
And it’s YOKOZUNA! The Canadians shit their pants huddle to strategize as the big man waddles to the ring. Yokozuna steps in, stares down Benoit, Owen, and the Bulldog… then DESTROYS the Bossman with a running splash in the corner as the Canadians watch in confusion! Bonzai Drop for the Bossman and the elimination is academic at 32:58. Belly to belly suplex for Test and the Hulkbuster ’93 legdrop flattens him and Yokozuna dumps Test with ease at 33:35. Bam Bam staggers up and he and Yoko lock eyes, but that ends in a hurry as #19 is ANDRE THE GIANT! UH OH! Now the Canadians really lose their minds, and Bam Bam and Yoko call Andre in. Andre chops both of them back to the ropes and Bam Bam gets clotheslined out at 34:41! Andre and Yoko trade shots in the center of the ring, but the Hart Foundation strikes! Owen clips Andre’s knee, Benoit clips the other knee, and the four of them manage to get the Giant to the mat. Beatdown ensues, but Andre pops up and everyone goes flying. Bulldog eats a big boot and goes over the top to the floor, finally eliminating the first entrant at 35:30!! Pillman gets thrown over like a rag doll, but he somehow holds on. Before Andre can get his paws on Owen, Yokozuna attacks from behind, but eats a back elbow, and Andre SLAMS HIM! Benoit gets chopped down, Owen gets a head butt, and Andre tosses Yokozuna at 36:00! #20 is Dr. Death Steve Williams, and Andre throws Candido halfway up the aisle for another elimination, and Dr. Death is amused as he walks by. But, considering he’s gonna have to deal with what’s left of the Hart Foundation and Andre the Friggin Giant, it doesn’t look good. Andre sets his sights on Benoit and Pillman, and Williams jumps Owen and we’ve got a good little brawl here. And now the crowd starts to buzz, because Savage is finally up and gets back into the fray and it’s a 3 on 3 fight! Andre’s just slapping the Canadians down like they’re children. Dr. Death goes for the Stampede on Benoit, but Benoit slips off the back and sends Williams to the turnbuckle. Crossface gets blocked with a release German suplex. Pillman gets flipped off Andre’s back like nothing, but Owen hits Andre with the enziguri!! Owen and Pillman try to dump Andre, and Dr. Death goes to try to help. Now even Savage gets in on it. But Andre shoves them all off.
#21 is Road Warrior Hawk and Hawk rallies the guys to team up on Andre again and EVERYONE dumps Andre at 38:27! But Andre doesn’t go alone, as he drags out Dr. Death with him! But that leaves Hawk and Savage against the Hart Foundation, but Hawk kicks everyone’s ass. Modified Doomsday Device to Pillman with Macho coming off the top. Owen piledrives Hawk… who of course no sells it, but Benoit clocks Macho from behind. They finally beat down Hawk, but Savage runs in to even things up. #22 is Bad News Brown, who gladly helps out the heels, then turns on Owen for good measure. Bad News works over Savage in the corner and Hawk powers out of a crossface attempt, but gets clipped from behind by Pillman. Pillman tires to help Bad News with Savage, but Bad News is having none of it. #23 is Umaga! And things are settling back down as the Hart Foundation is sticking together with everyone else fending for themselves. Umaga and Hawk square off with some high impact offense. Headbutts go nowhere, shoulderblocks go to a stalemate, but Umaga takes him down with a throat punch! Owen and Benoit put the beats on Hawk, and Bad News stops by to help out, then kicks the crap out of Benoit. Pillman chokes out Savage, and both guys get splashed in the corner by Umaga! Things really get interesting at #24 with Mr. Perfect! Perfect SLOWLY makes walks to the ring, working in the towel throw and the gum swat on his way down, burning up almost the entire two minutes as he jaws with the fans. Hawk fights back on Owen, taking his head off with a clothesline, and Pillman gets backdropped over, but hangs on again. Umaga has some words for Bad News, and Bad News takes offense and they slug it out. GHETTO BLASTER on Umaga! Perfect sneaks in and goes to work on Savage as #25 is Ravishing Rick Rude!! The Robinsdale Connection enters back to back and they pound on Savage like he stole something. Two separate heel factions in here now, it doesn’t look good for the rest of the guys, and sure enough, while Hawk is having it out with Bad News, Hennig and Rude come from behind and dump him at 47:02. The Hart Foundation team up on Umaga as Bad News rolls out to regroup, and Rude gets the Rude Awakening on Savage. Macho blocks the elimination, however, by snapping Perfect’s throat off the top rope, with Henning oversells beautifully. Atomic drop for Rude and Savage gets the double axehandle. But then Bad News jumps Macho from behind.
#26 is Crush, and he rushes the ring and hits everything that moves! Down goes Owen! Down goes Pillman! Down goes Bad News! Benoit gets clobbered with a jumping shoulderblock! Clothesline for Umaga and he goes over and out at 48:45! Hennig and Owen team up on him from behind to slow that rally, but Savage gets back into the fight and it’s a donnybrook. But the Hart Foundation finally isolate Savage, while Rude and Hennig get Crush down with the help of Bad News and the heels take back over. Help might be on the way in #27, because it’s Earthquake. Quake gets the double noggin knocker on Owen and Benoit, then squashes Pillman in the corner, and Pillman falls thru the ropes to the floor. Bad News wants some, but gets beaten down and splashed for good measure, but Rude gets Quake from behind in the lower back. That doesn’t last long though, as Rude and Hennig miss a double clothesline and Quake takes both guys down. Crush gets Hennig in the head vice, which Perfect sells like death, but Bad News catches Crush with the GHETTO BLASTER and Benoit dumps Crush to the floor at 51:51. Who better than Kanyon to be #28? Kanyon gets his offense in on Savage and Owen, but Benoit mows him down with a clothesline and dragon suplex. Pillman back in to attack Kanyon, but Bad News kicks down Pillman from behind. Quake tries to fight off Perfect and Rude with no luck, but they can’t get him out. #29 is Mike Awesome and he throws down on everyone, and Perfect eats a nasty powerbomb. Owen tosses Savage, but Macho hangs on again. Benoit tries Awesome and gets leveled, but Bad News drills Awesome. In a nifty spot, Bad News picks up Hennig for an airplane spin, and Perfect’s legs knock down everyone, including Earthquake. Bad News with the Black Power salute after that one to a decent pop. Everyone gets a breather before #30… and it’s Eddie Guerrero who probably stole the number from someone else.
So, we’re left with 11 guys: Savage, Owen, Benoit, Pillman, Bad News, Perfect, Rude, Quake, Kanyon, Awesome, and Guerrero. Savage has been in the match for 56 minutes.
Eddie takes a survey of the landscape and sees old buddy Benoit across the way, but before anyone makes a move, Awesome jumps Eddie from behind and we’re off again. Macho finds another burst and goes after Owen and Benoit, while Kanyon fights Rude and Hennig. Bad News and Quake slug it out and Bad News gets the butt splash for his troubles. Quake tries to dump him, but gets blindsided by Pillman. Eddie fights off Awesome but gets cut off by Rude. Savage drags Owen around by the hair until Benoit chops him back down. Kanyon hits a Flatliner on Hennig, then a Death Valley Driver on Bad News, but gets dropkicked over the top rope by Eddie at 58:13. The Hart Foundation beats down Savage again, and Hennig and Rude go after Eddie, but Quake makes the save. Bad News and Awesome have it out and after a missed haymaker, Bad News backdrops over and to the floor at 58:50. We’re down to 9 men. Rude tries the Rude Awakening on Earthquake to laughable results, and Quake slams him dead center of the ring. Aftershocks signal the splash coming, Hennig has the chair from 30 minutes ago and blasts Quake in the face, and we’ve got a crimson mask! Eddie steals the chair away from Hennig, but tosses it to Bad News. Perfect wants his chair back, so Bad News swings, Perfect ducks… and it’s PILLMAN to takes the shot to the head, and Savage tosses the Loose Cannon at the 60:00 mark. The Macho Man’s been in there an hour. Bad News still stalks Perfect, but Owen rips the chair away and chucks it out and Benoit takes down Bad News from behind. Rude’s back in it and he and Savage throw hands and Rude gets tossed, but skins the cat back in and takes Macho down. Eddie and Owen pair off in a corner and Quake staggers back up and finds Hennig and goes to town on him. Bad News fights off Benoit but tries a pissed off Quake, and Earthquake takes Bad News to the floor at 62:10. But as Quake admires his work, Owen and Benoit sneak up from behind and dump him moments later at 62:17.
Now we’re down to Savage, Owen, Benoit, Perfect, Rude, and Eddie. Owen and Benoit go to work on Eddie, hitting a piledriver, a powerbomb, and a German suplex/spinning heel kick combo. Meanwhile, Hennig and Rude work over Savage on the other side. Owen pulls Eddie up and Benoit goes in for the kill (pun intended), but clotheslines OWEN over and out at 63:25 after nearly a 40 minute run!! Benoit can’t believe what he’s done, and Eddie finally gets his hands on him and beats the hell out of him, culminating in the frog splash. Eddie goes under the ropes, grabs the chair again, comes back in and WALLOPS Benoit for good measure and tosses him at 65:29!
Final Four: Savage, Perfect, Rude, Eddie. Eddie goes and bails out Savage and the good guys control the action for a bit, allowing Rude to show his ass to the crowd on a sunset flip spot with Guerrero. Inverted atomic drop for Rude, who gives us his dramatic selljob, and Savage busts open Perfect with a series of right hands. Rude fights back on Eddie by going to the eyes, but the Rude Awakening is reversed into the Gory Special, but Rude blocks that, and flips back over Eddie’s back and DOES hit the Rude Awakening in a neat spot. Rude tosses Guerrero, but Eddie lands on one foot and hops on the floor and manages to get back to the apron and comes back in with a missile dropkick on both Rude and Hennig. Savage and Eddie try to dump Rude to no avail and Perfect takes a big backdrop from Eddie. Savage sends Perfect over with a running clothesline, but Hennig barely hangs on. Eddie grabs Perfect’s arm for the springboard armdrag, but Rude crotches him on the top rope and Perfect shoves Eddie to the floor at 68:47!! So Savage, who’s been in there nearly 70 minutes, has to deal with Hennig and Rude who are relatively fresh. Heel beatdown ensues, but the Macho Man scraps back by cheating, specifically an eye gouge for Perfect and a low blow to Rude. Suplex is countered into the Perfectplex, though, but when Hennig tries to dump him, Savage blocks by grabbing the hair and pulling Perfect over and out to the floor by his flowing locks, but before Savage can even stand up, Rude pounces from behind and throws him over and to the floor to win the Rumble at 72:32!!
WINNER: RAVISHING RICK RUDE
Coming later this week... the 2nd Round of the Ultimate BCS Playoff!
It was a foregone conclusion that 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel would be declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft. That news officially broke earlier this week to the surprise of nobody. The "controversial" superstar Texas A&M quarterback set a plethora of SEC yardage records during his two year tenure and, like him or not, has generally been considered the most exciting player in college football for the past two seasons. His emergence last September cemented the Aggies as a legitimate and immediate threat in the SEC as the school was still unpacking its boxes from its move from the Big XII.
Despite the accusations that Manziel is a "punk," a "jerk," and a "tool," he did release a classy goodbye statement to the fans of A&M the afternoon of his announcement, thanking them for the support and the memories during his Aggie career, as well as wishing his best for the program going forward.
We, at Sixth Year Seniors, however, managed to get our hands on the written statement BEFORE the A&M public relations crew could do some work on it. What we found was a much more raw and descriptive account of Manziel's feelings surrounding his departure and his time at College Station. We have transcribed this unedited statement below:
To All My Friends in Aggieland,
After long discussions with my family, friends, teammates, coaches, women, shady characters I either owe money to or who owe money to me, oh, and Turtle, I have decided to make myself available to the Houston Texans for the first selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. The decision, unlike reading Nick Saban’s alleged elite defense, was not an easy one. (Seriously, 562 total yards against them this season. Get at me.) Anyone who has ever smuggled those tiny bottles of Jack Daniels in and watched a football game at Kyle Field knows that leaving that atmosphere, those Saturdays with excitement, color, and noise, (all of which are amplified exponentially by those BIG hangovers, let me tell ya) will be hard for me. I cannot begin to tell you what the support of the school, my teammates, Coach Sumlin, Chancellor Sharp, my rich daddy, the talking heads at ESPN, the boosters, and the fans has meant to me over the last two years. The work you guys did to keep me eligible – the greased palms, the luxury yachts, the exotic vacations you gave to the right people – will never be forgotten. The Heisman Trophy belongs as much to you as it does to me – I’m not sharing my horde of sex slaves, though. My teammates and I never doubted the value or the deep and real spirit of The 12th Man. It is not a myth – it’s the name of my sex tape that I plan to leak once my NFL career flames out in Favre-like fashion. Anyone who has ever played football for Texas A&M knows that passion, much like my high alcohol tolerance, is real.
I promise you I will always be an Aggie, a player, a legend, and a God. I will always try to make you as proud of me in the NFL as I did at when I was banging models every night at Texas A&M. While there are many wonderful memories I will take with me – big wins, surprising upsets, Bowl victories, sleeping in at Manning Camp, that FREE autograph signing in Miami, and most importantly, the Scooby Doo Halloween Party – I most cherish standing arm in arm with my teammates during the postgame, singing the alma mater, or jumping into the stands to feel up those hot coeds in the first row. (I’m talking to YOU, Melanie and Ashley!) I regret we weren’t able to bring a BCS Championship to College Station, but we did win back to back Partying National Championships during my two years at A&M. Those MVP trophies look great mounted as the hood ornaments on my new Mazeratis! Now that the recruiting budget is freed up with my name coming off the payroll, I assure you a BCS championship is going to come soon with Coach Sumlin and these talented players. And when it does, you can bet I will be with you to cheer and celebrate. I’ll probably be the loudest one there – because I will also be the drunkest one there.
Thank you for making my college years very special. The faces, the friends, the fans, the experience, and the women – lord have mercy, the women - will forever be an important part of my life. Gig ’em Aggies!
I Got 5 on It,
We'll have more on this on the Second Semester Premiere of Sixth Year Seniors on January 14!
Spoiler: You will get more takes from Mikey on the NWA U.S. Title scene from 1986 thru 1990 than you will on PAC-12 or Big Ten football.