It happened 50 years and three Charlotte Coliseums ago.
The college basketball season is longer these days, so the March 8th anniversary date has passed. But it will never be forgotten, and those too young to remember should hear the story.
The Tar Heels of Dean Smith went to the 1969 ACC tournament at the original Charlotte Coliseum on Independence Boulevard after having won their third consecutive outright regular-season championship and were gunning for their third straight conference tournament title.
Carolina, No. 4 in the country, blew out Clemson in the quarterfinals and dispatched Wake Forest in the Friday night semis. Unranked Duke, which had upset the Heels in Durham the week before, was waiting in the championship game after stunning eighth-ranked South Carolina in the other semifinal.
So, now it was UNC-Duke for the third time and, remember, in those days only the ACC tourney champion advanced to the NCAA tournament. With no at large bids, the regular season was meaningless regarding the right to play for the NCAA crown.
The Tar Heels were heavily favored but ran into trouble early in the game when starting senior point guard Dick Grubar injured his knee and, after trying to play in the second half, went to the bench for good. Meanwhile, All-ACC forward Bill Bunting had fallen into foul trouble and eventually picked up his fifth with nine minutes left in the game. The crowd of 11,666 was going nuts.
Carolina, which had trailed 43-34 at the half, still found itself down by double figures when All-American Charlie Scott took the game into his own hands. Scott had 12 points at halftime, but now with so much on the line he began calling for the ball and telling his teammates to clear out the lane.
Scott went on the greatest scoring surge in ACC history, drilling long shots that would be 3-pointers today, hitting pull up jumpers and driving to the basket for circus layups. He wound up with 28 more points in the second half, 40 for the game, and helped the Heels pull away to the 85-74 victory. Scott, the tourney MVP, and his team were on their way to a third straight Final Four.
Those who saw it live or on TV still think of it as yesterday.