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Final Farewell: Coach Smith Cherished, Celebrated By Those He Loved

The life and legacy of Dean Smith was publicly celebrated Sunday afternoon in the Carolina basketball showpiece that bears his name, the Dean E. Smith Center. There were few dry eyes in the house as former players, coaches and friends paid tribute to UNC’s priceless gem.

***Listen to the story***

‘Amazing Grace’, sung to perfection by the UNC Clef Hangers, certainly didn’t help those watery eyes any either.

The song, one of Coach Smith’s favorites, was also accompanied by ‘There Will Never Be Another You’ performed by the UNC Department of Music Jazz Sextet. Coach Smith was always fond of jazz music.

The beautiful musical acts accented the poignant words of some of the people closest to the legendary UNC basketball coach.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

A full crowd Sunday in the Smith Center (UNC Athletics)

None may have been closer, though, than Coach Smith’s pastor and friend for over fifty years, the Reverend Dr. Robert Seymour.

“We knew the end of his life was approaching. It has been a long, long goodbye. I’m sure you will join with me in thanking the members of his family and all of those who gave him good loving care for such a long, long time,” Seymour said

Seymour was quick to remind the thousands in attendance that this coming Saturday, Feb. 28, is his friend’s birthday. Seymour shared the card he was planning to send to Coach Smith.

“Were he still in our midst, I have a birthday card I would have sent him. The message is this: Treasured and trusted with a heart that’s true, no wonder we celebrate that God gave us you,” Seymour said.

Coach Smith’s son, Scott Smith, took the time to thank everybody involved in making the memorial event for his father a success.

“We personally witnessed so much of the hard work that went on behind the scenes to make this such a wonderful event honoring a husband, our father and your Coach and friend,” Smith said.

Smith also expressed his father’s love for current UNC coach Roy Williams.

“Coach Williams, dad loved you. He believed in you. He often told us how proud he was of you and how happy he was that you were here at UNC. He knew the basketball program that he loved and developed would be in your great hands going forward, even after he was no longer here,” Smith said.

Roy Williams holding up four fingers for Coach Smith (UNC Athletics)

Roy Williams holding up four fingers for Coach Smith (UNC Athletics)

The Voice of the Tar Heels for over 30 years, Woody Durham, emceed the event and painted a beautiful portrait of Coach Smith’s relationship with Coach Williams that came full circle when he brought him back home to Chapel Hill.

“He was brought to his University by the man he wanted to be around to learn how to be a basketball coach. And then when the time came and the Coach thought it was right, he sent him to his alma mater, as the head coach of the University of Kansas. And then when it was the right time to bring him home, he did that too,” Durham said.

Coach Williams recalled a time he got a pretty significant phone call but wouldn’t let it interrupt a meeting with one of his players.

“I’ve got a player in the office, and she [secretary] opened the door and stuck her head in. I looked and said, ‘What?’ You just don’t do that. She said, ‘Former President Bush is on the phone.’ I said, ‘Would you please tell him we’ll call him back,'” Coach Williams said.

As it turned out, President Bush just wanted a couple tickets to the upcoming game. But the funny anecdote illustrates Coach Williams carrying on Coach Smith’s tradition of the Carolina family – an unwavering loyalty to his players and staff.

But that kindness and compassion stretched out further, as Coach Williams pointed out.

“Every day our lives will show something that Coach Smith gave us – the way we treat people, the way we treat people with respect and dignity, and the way we care. That’s what Coach Smith did,” Coach Williams said.

Thousands gathered to say goodbye to Coach Smith Sunday (UNC Athletics)

Thousands gathered to say goodbye to Coach Smith Sunday (UNC Athletics)

Coach Smith revolutionized the game of basketball in many ways – the Four Corners offense and pointing to the passer are just two of them.

In UNC’s win over Georgia Tech Saturday, Coach Williams paid tribute by running the iconic Four Corners offense that comforted Tar Heel fans and enraged opponents for years.

Fittingly, Coach Williams took another page out of his mentor’s playbook Sunday and called for the crowd in attendance to point skyward up at Coach Smith.

“I’m trying to speak on behalf of every one of us. Everybody has negatives. Everybody has plusses. Coach Smith had more plusses than anybody I’ve ever known. Let’s raise our hand, point and thank him for the assist. Thank you,” Coach Williams said.

WCHL’s own Freddie Kiger put together a touching video tribute to Coach Smith. It closed out the proceedings on an emotional day inside the Smith Center.


UCLA Offense Too Much for UNC in Series Clincher

Third baseman Chris Keck drove in four runs to lead the #4 UCLA Bruins to a 12-4 victory in the rubber match of their three game set with the #6 Diamond Heels Sunday afternoon in Orlando, leading an offense that pounded out 16 hits. The win in this early season test improves the Bruins to 6-1 and drops UNC to a record of 4-2.

Top-flight pitching was expected to be the strength of both teams heading into the season. Runs were supposed to come at a premium. But you wouldn’t know it from seeing the results of this series. The first two games were sloppy, taking close to four hours to complete, featuring 17 combined errors, and plenty of runs, 28 to be exact.

Today would be no different, with three more errors, 16 more runs, and a game that crept the four hour mark.

Scoring began in the top of the third with the Bruins stringing together four consecutive hits off Tar Heel freshman starter JB Bukauskas. A line drive by left-fielder Ty Moore, batting .548 on the season, struck Bukauskas on the heel and got through the middle, scoring shortstop Kevin Kramer and giving UCLA the first lead of the game.

JB Bukauskas went 4.2 innings, striking out five, and allowing five earned runs. (UNC Athletics)

JB Bukauskas went 4.2 innings, striking out five, and allowing five earned runs. (UNC Athletics)

Pitching coach Scott Forbes came out to the mound to check on his starter, but Bukauskas was okay to stay in. Still with no outs in the inning, he came back to face Keck, who promptly smashed a double down the left field line, driving in two runs and extending the lead to three. Luckily for Carolina, the freshman regained his composure and retired the next three batters up, including two swinging strikeouts, to escape the jam.

He would increase that streak to seven, going three up, three down, in the fourth, and getting Bruin first baseman Luke Persico to pop out to begin the fifth, before running into trouble again. Ty Moore doubled down the right field line, catcher Darrell Miller Jr. reached first after being hit by a pitch, and right-fielder Kort Peterson hit a two-bagger that brought Moore home, ending the day for Bukauskas (1-1).

Sophomore Zac Gallen replaced UNC’s young flame-thrower and completed the inning, however, he inherited two base-runners that would each score on designated hitter Sean Bouchard’s single, increasing the Tar Heels’ deficit to 6-0.

UCLA junior Cody Poteet was fantastic, throwing five innings on his way to the win. (Baseball America

UCLA junior Cody Poteet was fantastic, throwing five innings on his way to the win. (Baseball America)

Carolina put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but failed to break through on Bruins’ junior right-hander Cody Poteet (2-0) until their turn in the bottom of the fifth. Korey Dunbar scored after a two-out throwing error by UCLA second baseman Trent Chatterton kept the inning alive, and allowed Skye Bolt to reach first. Poteet then issued three consecutive walks to Tyler Ramirez, Adrian Chacon, and Alex Raburn that pulled UNC within four.

The junior was credited with the win after five strong innings. He struck out three, and both runs he allowed were unearned, shrinking his ERA to 1.64 on the season.

Bruin bats added another run in the top of the sixth; Keck knocking in his third RBI of the day with a single off of Tar Heel freshman lefty Hunter Williams.

But the Tar Heels had a response ready for the UCLA bullpen, getting a run back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI base hit from Skye Bolt, and another in the seventh, delivered by pinch-hitter Brian Miller, the freshman out of Millbrook High School in Raleigh (his second straight game with an RBI off the bench).

They just couldn’t keep up over the long haul with a Bruin squad that clearly has an offense dangerous enough to match their vaunted pitching staff. They plated five more runs over the eighth and ninth, proving to be too much for UNC.

UCLA’s bullpen also tightened things up, closing it out with back-to-back scoreless innings, keeping the Tar Heels from mounting a comeback.

Winning the series certainly qualifies the Bruins as contenders to reach the College World Series in Omaha, while Carolina earns some valuable experience that can be drawn upon going forward, as they try to do the same thing.

The Tar Heels’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24th, against St. Johns at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. Starters have not yet been announced.

Game Notes:

  • UNC 1B/C Adrian Chacon, who went 1-4 with a walk on Sunday, has reached base in every game this season
  • Ty Moore’s RBI in the third was the first earned run allowed in college by JB Bukauskas (5 IP, 0 ER last week)
  • Tyler Ramirez, Carolina’s home run leader, went 1-1 and walked four times today
  • The Tar Heels went a combined 2-25 with runners in scoring position in their two losses, 9-22 in the win



#6 UNC Strikes Back in Game 2 to Even Series With #4 UCLA

A burst of late offense led the #6 UNC baseball team (4-1) to a 9-6 victory in another back-and-forth affair with the #4 UCLA Bruins (5-1) in the second game of their top-ten showdown on Saturday. The game marks the Bruins’ first loss of the season.

Fans in Orlando were treated to a pitchers’ duel at the start, between UNC’s Trent Thornton and UCLA’s lefty Grant Watson, as both offenses desperately searched for answers early on.

Trent Thornton began the game with five scoreless innings. (UNC Athletics)

Trent Thornton began the game with five scoreless innings. (UNC Athletics)

Thornton opened the game with five scoreless innings, settling down after giving up two hits in the first, retiring nine hitters in a row at one point, until getting himself in a tough situation in the sixth. He finished with six strikeouts and allowed three earned runs (all in the sixth), while throwing 5.1 innings for Carolina.

Watson matched that initial effort pitch for pitch, keeping the Tar Heels out of the hit column for three innings, until sophomore shortstop Wood Myers finally broke through with a double to lead off the fourth.

A follow-up walk to Tyler Ramirez gave the UNC dugout a sign of life, before Bruins’ center-fielder Christoph Bono sprawled out for an amazing diving catch that kept Tar Heel first baseman Adrian Chacon from potentially driving Myers home. Next at the plate, though, was second baseman Alex Raburn, who lined a two-out RBI single to left center-field, scoring Myers and giving Carolina a 1-0 lead through four.

Shortstop Wood Myers led the Tar Heel offense Saturday (UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Wood Myers led the Tar Heel offense Saturday, going 3-5 (UNC Athletics)

With the Tar Heels seemingly on the way to being victims of yet another Watson 1-2-3 inning, in the bottom of the fifth, Landon Lassiter and Myers each singled with two outs, setting the table for Skye Bolt, who brought home Lassiter with a hit that bounced over the head of UCLA shortstop Kevin Kramer. Carolina went ahead 3-0 on the next at-bat after a fielding error by Bruin first baseman Luke Persico allowed Wood Myers to come home, and Tyler Ramirez to reach base.

This rally would spell the end of the road for the senior lefty, as Watson would be done after five innings and 90 pitches, giving up five hits, walking two, and striking out just one Tar Heel batter.

The 2013 NCAA Champions would rise to the challenge though, and then some, pouncing on Thornton in the top of the sixth for two runs. Christoph Bono scored on a wild pitch and Persico doubled home Kramer to end the day for the junior right-hander.

Coach Mike Fox would bring in his All-American reliever, Reilly Hovis, to try and escape the one-out jam, but the early struggles for Hovis would continue, initially.

After Seton Hall tagged the righty for four runs in the ninth inning, with the game out of reach, last Sunday in Chapel Hill, UCLA designated hitter Ty Moore immediately drove in Persico to tie the game at three. Second baseman Sean Bouchard then got in on the act with an RBI single through the left side, putting the Bruins in front by one.

UNC’s offense continued to shine late in the game, snatching the lead back by scoring two runs off of UCLA reliever Griffin Canning right away, in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Raburn scored on a double by freshman pinch-hitter Brian Miller, and Logan Warmoth came home courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Landon Lassiter.

Freshman Logan Warmoth continues to impress at third. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman Logan Warmoth continues to impress at third. (UNC Athletics)

Hovis remained on the mound to start the seventh, showing the Tar Heel faithful what they’ve come to expect, sitting the Bruins down in order in the top of the frame.  He would also be credited with the win (1-0) for his efforts.

In the Carolina half of the seventh, UNC was able to manufacture scoring yet again, this time off the bats of freshman roommates Warmoth (RBI single, his second base hit of the game) and first baseman Zack Gahagan (single up the middle for two RBI in his first at-bat off the bench).

UCLA tacked on two runs in the top of the eighth, but a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning by reliever Scott Burke let Tyler Ramirez cross the plate and extend the UNC lead to 9-6.

With one final opportunity to tie the game in the ninth against Tar Heel reliever Chris McCue, the Bruins were able to get a couple runners on base, thanks to two errors in the field by UNC.

Clinging to the lead, Coach Fox called to the bullpen for lefty Zach Rice to deliver the final out, and the save. And he did, when Bruin third baseman Chris Keck flew out two pitches later to end the game.

The rubber match will take place Sunday morning, with first pitch coming at 11 A.M. UNC will send freshman sensation JB Bukauskas to the mound to face off with UCLA junior right-hander Cody Poteet.

Game Notes: 

  • UCLA batted around in the top of the sixth
  • UNC batted 9-22 with runners in scoring position today, after a dismal 0-8 performance Friday
  • Both teams have combined for 17 errors in two games (each team had three today)
  • The Tar Heels had 12 hits, distributed among nine different players, led by Wood Myers (3-5) and Logan Warmoth (2-4, RBI)



Carolina Honors Coach Smith With Emphatic Victory

A moment of silence. 1980’s throwback jerseys. The Four-Corners offense run to perfection. Soaring slams. Pulsating roars.

No, this wasn’t 1982, but if you closed your eyes, it could have been. Needless to say, it was Carolina’s day inside the Dean E. Smith Center.

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The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team sped away from Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, securing a comfortable 89 -60 win to improve to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in ACC action.

It was a celebratory mood inside the Smith Center Saturday (Todd Melet)

It was a celebratory mood inside the Smith Center Saturday (Todd Melet)

With the loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped to 12-15 on the season with a 3-12 mark in league play.

The Chapel Hill community will officially memorialize the late Dean Smith Sunday inside the showpiece that dons his name, but it’s Saturday’s dominant performance from his beloved Tar Heels that will probably make Coach Smith happiest.

Six UNC players finished in double figures in scoring with sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks leading the charge with 18 points to go along with six rebounds. The unselfish effort and tight teamwork would no doubt make Coach Smith smile.

Many observers were wondering how Carolina would respond from the disappointment at Duke Wednesday. Those folks received an emphatic answer.

Four corners! (UNC Athletics)

Four corners! (UNC Athletics)

“Okay, needless to say it was a great day for us.  Shoot 63 percent for the game and only have eight turnovers, it was a good bounce back from a very disappointing game Wednesday night.  We felt, like I said at the press conference Wednesday night, I thought we did some good things over there, but Duke made better plays down the stretch.  People were worried about the carry-over.  I wasn’t worried about that,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Georgia Tech junior forward Marcus Georges-Hunt tallied a team-leading 15 points, but the Jackets only managed to shoot 38 percent from the floor as a team, struggling to deal with UNC’s defensive aggression, especially early in the second half.

A potential Four Corners tribute to Coach Smith was something Coach Williams says he’s been pondering for weeks now, due to UNC’s extended road trip.

Paige battles for the ball with Yellow Jackets flanking him (Todd Melet)

Paige battles for the ball with Yellow Jackets flanking him (Todd Melet)

“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, for two weeks anyway.  Some way to do something that would mean a great deal to him and would mean a great deal to me.  I thought that worked out great,” Coach Williams says.

Roy Williams was emotional for Coach Smith and his Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams was emotional for Coach Smith and his Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Fittingly, the four corners play proved successful. Before the score, Coach Williams held up four fingers that served as a lasting memory for those in attendance.

In total, the first half shooting percentage of 61.3 percent was UNC’s second best field goal percentage of the season – a half against William & Mary the only 20 minutes better.

Out of the halftime locker room, the Tar Heels took over. An electrifying J.P. Tokoto aerial assault followed by a pretty Marcus Paige three-pointer gave UNC a 60-32 advantage with 15:15 to play in the contest. The game was essentially over.

Tokoto, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, says Saturday’s win was absolutely necessary.

“You don’t want to lose a fifth, especially at home to anybody, not just Georgia Tech even if it was Duke, we would have came out with the same energy. We have to take this and keep moving forward. We are out of a drought now, but we could drop the next game very easily if we don’t come out to play,” Tokoto says.

Next up for Carolina comes round two of its rivalry matchup with N.C. State. The Tar Heels and Wolfpack will square off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. back in the Smith Center.

***Click here for full game photo gallery***



Life of Dean Smith to be Honored With Public Celebration

The life of legendary coach Dean Smith will be celebrated with a public memorial at 2 PM on Sunday. The service will be held in the appropriately named, Dean E. Smith Center.

Those who wish to attend will be admitted on a first-come, first- served basis.

Welcome remarks will be delivered by University Chancellor Carol Folt, followed by words from a plethora of Coach Smith’s former players and colleagues, including current head basketball coach, Roy Williams.

Video tributes and special performances by Carolina musical groups and the UNC-Chapel Hill band will also be included in the procession, which should last approximately two hours.

The event will be broadcast live, and commercial-free, on WCHL beginning at 2:00. Jones Angell will host.

Doors to the arena will open at 1 PM, and those who drive to campus should expect a traffic pattern similar to that used for men’s home basketball games.


Errors Cost Tar Heels Game 1 of Showdown With UCLA

The UCLA Bruins, ranked fourth in the most recent D1Baseball.com Top 25 Poll, triumphed over the #6 Tar Heels 8-5 Friday, in their highly anticipated series opener being held in Orlando, Florida at UCF’s Jay Bergman Field. The win brings the Bruins’ record to 5-0, and the Tar Heels earn their first loss of the season, dropping to 3-1.

Action would go back and forth in the early going, and for the third consecutive game the Tar Heels dug themselves a 1-0 hole in the top of the first, after starter Benton Moss allowed singles to the first three batters he faced. The third, by UCLA first baseman Luke Persico, driving in lead-off man Brett Stephens. However, Moss was able to escape the early jam by striking out the next three hitters.

Again, though, UNC would recover quickly. Sophomore Tyler Ramirez continued to show the improvement in his power swing, kicking off the bottom of the second with a home run to right field on the first pitch he saw from Bruin right-hander James Kaprielian. In this, just the fourth game of the year for the Tar Heels, Ramirez’s second homer matches his long ball count from all of last season.

Tyler Ramirez homered again Friday, matching his total from last year (2). (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez homered again Friday, matching his total from last year (2). (UNC Athletics)

In the top of the third, following two wild pitches from Moss, Persico, who led the Bruin offense all day, going 3-6 with two RBI, singled in Stevens for a second time, giving UCLA a 2-1 lead . Carolina would answer immediately, on a two-out solo shot by Skye Bolt in the bottom of the frame.

Stuck in yet another hole, with two men on base, and two outs in the top of the fourth, Coach Mike Fox would end Benton Moss’s day a bit early after the senior threw 82 pitches in just 3.2 innings, giving up two earned runs. Moss was not credited with a decision and added seven more strikeouts to his impressive tally for the year, which is now at 16 in just 8.2 innings of work.

Coach Fox would then turn to the lefty Zach Rice, looking for a favorable match-up with a UCLA lineup that features six left-handed hitters. Rice slammed the door in the fourth inning, but allowed the Bruins to rattle off three straight two-out hits in the fifth, capped off by an RBI double from right-fielder Kort Peterson.

On a bizarre play in the bottom of the fifth with Skye Bolt at the plate and second baseman Alex Raburn on first, Bolt went for a check swing but ended up sending the ball down the left field line for what was ruled a double. However, the Bruins fielders mishandled the ball twice, allowing Bolt to reach third and Raburn to score, tying the score at 3-3.

The Bruins would get the last laugh on this day. (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins would get the last laugh on this day. (UCLA Athletics)

Trouble arrived in the top of the sixth for the Tar Heels when a wild pitch from Spencer Trayner, UNC’s third of the game, handed the lead right back to the Bruins. Freshman Nick Raquet allowed two unearned runs in relief of Trayner (1-1), who picked up the loss. Catcher Adrian Chacon gave up the first on a passed ball, with the second coming on a throwing error by freshman Preston Hudak, who came into the game at second base prior to the inning.

Tar Heel third baseman Logan Warmoth, the freshman playing in his hometown, would score on an Alex Raburn sacrifice fly that shrank the UCLA lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh, after hitting a single through the left side that ended the day for the Bruins’ starter, Kaprielian, who earned the win with a workmanlike performance (6 IP, 7 K, 3 ER, 0 BB).

The Bruins chalked up a run in the eighth and ninth innings, proving to have the upper hand on a UNC bullpen that used six relievers Friday, and has earned high praise so far this year.

UCLA closer, senior David Berg, who holds the NCAA single season saves record (24), struggled in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Heels to get one run back, but ultimately ended up sealing the deal.

The second game will begin tomorrow at 1 P.M.  Trent Thornton will be on the mound for the Heels against UCLA lefty Grant Watson.

Game Notes:

  •  The teams combined for 11 errors on the day (six for UNC, five for UCLA)
  • UCLA left 16 men on base, in a game that took nearly four hours to complete
  • UNC’s Tyler Ramirez also homered in his first at-bat last Friday
  • Eight Tar Heels recorded a hit, but only Skye Bolt (2-4 HR, RBI ) and Wood Myers (2-4) got two
  • Carolina went 0-8 with runners in scoring position







Scouting Report: Georgia Tech Coach Brian Gregory

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Brian Gregory ahead of his team’s matchup with the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

The pair discussed Coach Gregory’s time spent coaching with Tom Izzo at Michigan State, the competitiveness of the ACC and his Yellow Jackets’ chances at pulling off an upset in the Smith Center Saturday.

***Listen to the interview***


In Wake of Duke Defeat, Carolina Hosts Georgia Tech

The No. 15 Tar Heels haven’t played all that poorly the past two contests at Pittsburgh and at Duke, but they lost both contests. A return home to the comfy confines of the Smith Center to take on struggling Georgia Tech could provide the perfect remedy for a UNC squad in desperate need of victory.

***Listen to the story***

“Guys, I know the outcome. You can’t just say besides the outcome because you know the outcome. They played better than we did today. We’ll get another chance, and maybe we’ll play better that day. It’s a long, long marathon. It’s a marathon in this league, and you’re running up hill all the time,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

Brice Johnson stepped up before fouling out against Duke (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson stepped up before fouling out against Duke (Todd Melet)

Carolina’s ACC ‘marathon’ will continue this weekend.

Sitting at 18-8 on the season with an 8-5 mark in ACC play, the Tar Heels still remain in the hunt for a No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament.

But losing four of the last five contests makes it harder to feel too optimistic. The true mettle of this Carolina club will no doubt be tested coming down the home stretch.

Lost in the shuffle of another classic Carolina-Duke matchup at Cameron was junior forward Brice Johnson fouling out of the contest late in the second half.

Johnson was playing well, especially on the boards. Without Johnson on the floor, the Tar Heels struggled to come up with the critical rebounds needed to put away their rivals.

Coach Williams says UNC needs to cut out the careless fouls.

“It hurt us, but it wasn’t a major part of the game. I don’t want anybody fouling out. We got to stop making the silly fouls. If he [Johnson] had stopped making the silly fouls, perhaps we’d be in the game,” Coach Williams says.

Despite the bitter end to the night at Cameron, there were flashes of brilliance from a lock-down UNC defense and thunderous finishes by the mercurial J.P. Tokoto.

Coach Williams will hope the individual performances Wednesday evening translate into a more collective, consistent Carolina going forward.

J.P. Tokoto's play has electrified crowds...at times. (Photo by Todd Melet.)

J.P. Tokoto’s play has electrified crowds…at times. (Photo by Todd Melet.)

“J.P. [Tokoto] has been struggling recently, but he had 15 points, seven assists, zero turnovers and eight rebounds [in the game]. I think several guys did some good things,” Coach Williams says.

UNC’s opponent Saturday, Georgia Tech, won’t be feeling sorry for the reeling the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets are a capable squad, coming off a 63-52 win against the Clemson Tigers.

The high noon tipoff in Chapel Hill will be the first home action on the hardwood since the passing of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith earlier this month. Emotions are sure to be riding high.


Carolina, Georgia To Renew Old Rivalry In 2016 Opener

The North Carolina football team will open its season against a tough SEC foe for two straight seasons at a neutral site.

After facing off with rival South Carolina to open the 2015 season in Charlotte, the Tar Heels will make a return trip to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Bulldogs for the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

UNC took on LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game back in 2010.

The 2016 Georgia Dome showdown will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Georgia and North Carolina will renew an old rivalry, having met 30 times since 1895 with the Bulldogs winning the last contest 7-3 in 1971. Overall, Georgia sports a 16-12-2 edge in the head-to-head series.


Cameron Classic: Duke Slips By UNC In Overtime Thriller

In another memorable chapter in the Tobacco Road rivalry, the No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team fell in overtime, 92-90, to No. 4 Duke Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

***Listen to the story***

Carolina built a ten-point second half lead with 3:51 to play to stun the Cameron Crazies, but the Tar Heels were unable to seal the deal in the closing minutes. The Blue Devils took full advantage of UNC miscues to force overtime at 81-all and ultimately complete the comeback victory.

With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 18-8 overall and an 8-5 mark in ACC play while the Blue Devils improved to 23-3 on the season with a 10-3 record in the league.

“It’s tough for this game to always live up to the hype,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski says. “But I think tonight’s game exceeded it.”

This topsy-turvy edition of the Battle of the Blues was played at a feverish, hectic pace and saw a number of players on both sides rise to the occasion, but it was Duke guard Tyus Jones who shone the brightest on this night, delivering the goods in the clutch and finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds.

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Tyus Jones talks with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a former point guard himself. (The Herald-Sun)

Duke’s Quinn Cook also had an outstanding game, contributing 22 points of his own while playing a whopping 45 minutes of the grueling contest that forced millions of viewers to stay up well past their bedtimes.

Notably, one UNC player was surprisingly quiet. Marcus Paige, normally an offensive catalyst for the Tar Heels, struggled to get open against the disciplined defense of Jones and when he did get shots off, he missed the mark completely, only managing to tally five points on 2-11 shooting.

“My teammates came to battle. They played fantastic the whole game. And I didn’t really give them anything,” Paige says.

In Paige’s place, a supporting cast of Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto was forced to take a starring role. The trio handled the promotion well, playing with an intensity and focus rarely seen so far in their careers.

Meeks and Johnson finished with 18 points apiece while Tokoto supplied 15 points that included a couple electrifying dunks that silenced the hostile crowd briefly each time.

But ironically, it was normally exquisite passer Meeks, whose carelessly tossed pass actually turned the tables late in the game and paved the path for a Duke rally.

“If you just care about college basketball then you had to enjoy that part of it. But I happen to love North Carolina, so it’s not as agreeable with me,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Duke sped out of the gates with a fury, staking a 13-4 lead with 16:41 on the first half clock. UNC appeared nervous in the opening minutes but settled down quickly to survive the Blue Devil storm.

Paige couldn't get much going Wed. night (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

Paige couldn’t get much going Wed. night (Photo Courtesy ESPN)

The Tar Heels battled hard and received contributions from a variety of players to cut the devfcit down to 40-36 after a Joel James layup with 4:12 to play before intermission.

At the halftime buzzer, Duke held a 49-42 advantage thanks to early hot shooting.

The start of the second half was dominated by the guys in Carolina blue. The Tar Heels got their offense flowing with crisp passing and unselfish ball movement. What’s more, their defense was suffocating. In full flight, UNC was something to see. The scoreboard reflected the spike in play too with Carolina sporting a 77-67 advantage with 3:51 to go.

But down the stretch, careless mistakes started to creep in. Missed foul shots didn’t help matters any either. Duke, meanwhile, turned up the defensive intensity and suprised Carolina by not settling for three-pointes when falling behind by double-digits.

Instead, the Blue Devils raised their toughness level and began driving straight to the basket, finishing the shots around the rim and often, drawing a foul.

The overtime period was tight throughout, but it was clear who had all the momentum. With the Cameron crowd in a frenzy, it was hard to imagine a scenario where UNC emerged victorious. But still, the Tar Heels had plenty of chances. But in the end, Duke snagged the all-important rebound to seal the deal off an intentional Carolina free throw miss.

In a lighter moment, before the game, Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Williams embraced while teammates from both squads put their arms around each other at midcourt for a poignant moment of silence to honor the late Dean Smith. The silence in Cameron Indoor was breathtaking – almost like a cathedral. Some fans even wore T-shirts in Duke’s color scheme and lettering that read DEAN in place of the usual DUKE.

Outside of the final outcome, an emotional Coach Williams says he was pleased with his team’s fight.

“For the most part, I really enjoyed the toughness and the poise of my team. Yes, we missed some free throws and wide open shots, but that’s college basketball. It’s 18, 19, 20, 21-year-old kids. We’ve been through a tough stretch. I am really proud of my team,” Coach Williams says.

Will UNC’s spirited effort against its rival serve as fuel to the fire going forward or will it represent a last gasp, of sorts, to a season that hasn’t been going in the right direction lately?

The answer will begin to reveal itself this weekend. The Tar Heels will return to action Saturday for a high noon meeting in the Smith Center with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.