March 22, 1998 in Sports

Tar Heels Drum Up 14th Final Four

Associated Press
 

Men’s East Regional

North Carolina may have had Jordan, Worthy and Perkins in the 1980s, but the Tar Heels are making a run as program of the decade with their fifth Final Four of the ‘90s.

Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter and Shammond Williams - North Carolina’s stars of today - were preparing for elementary school when the Tar Heels last went to consecutive Final Fours in 1981 and 1982.

They said they don’t remember watching players from those title teams, and in some cases weren’t even Tar Heels fans.

But 16 years later, the trio and a cast of three others called the “Starting Six” are leading one of the storied programs in college basketball back for another shot at a national title.

The top-seeded Tar Heels earned it by defeating No. 2 seed Connecticut 75-64 Saturday to get to San Antonio with a record-tying 34 wins under first-year coach Bill Guthridge.

“For any team to make it back-to-back to the Final Four is really hard,” said Jamison, whose 50th double-double of his career earned him the East Regional MVP award. “Look at Arizona, most people thought they had a clean slate to it, but anything can happen at an inopportune time. You totally have to be grateful to make it back.”

Utah upset the defending national champions in the West Regional and will play the Tar Heels.

As is Tar Heels tradition, the seniors cut the nets first at the Greensboro Coliseum, where a huge partisan crowd stayed to cheer their heroes on.

The chant of “One More Year” went up when juniors Jamison and Carter took the podium with scissors in hand, then Williams, a music fan, hopped in with the band, sat down and took over drumming duties.

North Carolina, playing 60 miles from its Chapel Hill campus, held off several runs by the Huskies. Connecticut closed to 59-58 with 5:37 left on a three-point play by Khalid El-Amin.

All-America Jamison then scored on a dunk off a brilliant tip pass by Carter and added a rebound basket with 4:01 remaining. After a Connecticut turnover, Ed Cota scored on a pass from Carter 39 seconds later and the lead was seven.

Connecticut scored with 3:03 to play on a back-in move by Kevin Freeman, but North Carolina closed the game with a 10-4 run to get back to the Final Four.

Jamison had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels, his fourth double-double in as many NCAA Tournament games. Williams had 19 points and Carter added 12. Cota finished with eight points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

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