CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With sophomore stars Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, North Carolina is supposed to have the most potent two-man combination in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maybe in the country.
Quietly, Wake Forest's Randolph Childress and Tim Duncan have been their equal this season. Last night at the Smith Center, the two Demon Deacons were neither quiet nor equal.
Childress finished with 26 points and Duncan had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead ninth-ranked Wake Forest to a 79-70 upset of the second-ranked Tar Heels. It was North Carolina's first loss on its home court this season and the first win here by the Demon Deacons since the 1981-82 season.
The victory was the sixth straight for the streaking Demon Deacons and created a logjam at the top of the ACC. It gave Maryland sole possession of first place at 11-3. Wake Forest (20-5, 11-4) is tied with North Carolina (21-5) and Virginia for second place. All four teams have a chance to win the regular-season title.
"It would be the understatement of the year to say we're very, very happy," said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom. "We deserve to be happy. They played well against an excellent team that also played well."
"It was a tremendous performance by Childress and Duncan, not necessarily in that order," said Tar Heels coach Dean Smith, whose 64th birthday did not turn out to be a happy one. "I don't think we played our worst game by any means. I prefer to give the credit to them."
Not only did Duncan dominate a stretch when Wake Forest built a seven-point halftime lead to 12 points, 60-48, midway through the second half, but he also shut down Wallace as nobody has this season -- as few, if any, have done in the 6-foot-10 center's playing career. Wallace finished with only four points. He took only three shots from the field, missing them all.
"It was a great team defense," Duncan said. "Every time he put the ball on the floor, there was somebody there to try and knock it away. His position was uncomfortable. I was just trying to move him out of the lane. They just had a hard time getting it in to him."
Still, the Tar Heels had a chance to pull off a comeback. Two of those have come at Wake Forest's expense in their past two meetings. One came in the semifinals of last year's ACC tournament, which North Carolina won in overtime. The other came earlier this season, when the Demon Deacons blew a 10-point lead with less than six minutes to play.
"I thought we were in good shape," said Smith. "We were down four and Dante [Calabria] had a chance to make it one. It does put pressure on them, especially the way we won the last couple. You've got to hand it to them."
The Demon Deacons didn't have it handed to them last night. After Wake's big lead was cut to three on three occasions and went through a stretch of over 5 1/2 minutes between baskets, the Deacons hit some big shots and made some even bigger defensive stops down the stretch.
With Wake leading 70-67 after North Carolina's Jeff McInnis hit a three with 2:07 to play, Childress was stripped by Calabria. But Calabria missed a short bank shot and Stackhouse was blocked by Duncan. The 6-11 sophomore then tipped in a miss by teammate Ricardo Peral at the other end.
The Demon Deacons, the ACC's leading free-throw shooters, then hit five of six free throws before senior forward Scooter Banks put an exclamation point on the victory when he took a lob pass from freshman guard Tony Rutland for a dunk in the closing seconds.
"The way we hung tough says a lot about our team," said Childress, who hit eight of 10 from the field, including four of five on threes, and was six of six from the line. "We've worked hard in practice to become a good second-half team."
Said Stackhouse, who led the Tar Heels with a team-high 26, "When you think of the top five point guards in the country, his name [Childress'] doesn't come up. But he knows how to win."
What Childress would call "the biggest win of my career" created havoc in one of the most hotly contested ACC regular-season races in history. Maryland finishes with two road games, tonight at Duke and Sunday at Virginia. The Tar Heels finish at home with Duke, and Wake Forest ends at home with N.C. State.
"I guess we still have a chance for the regular-season title," said Smith, whose team also lost its hold on the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament's East Regional. "But now we have to have a lot of help from other people. And we've got Duke on Saturday. That one won't be easy."
Sports Illustrated named North Carolina swingman Jerry Stackhouse its 1994-95 college basketball Player of the Year.
Stackhouse, the 6-foot-6 sophomore, was averaging 19.0 points, rebounds and 2.5 assists per game going into last night's game against Wake Forest. He has shot 50.8 percent from the nTC field -- including 38 percent on three-pointers -- and 70.5 percent from the line.
Maryland sophomore center Joe Smith was among the players mentioned as contenders for the award by the magazine.
NB The story will appear in this week's editions of the magazine.
.. .. .. .. .. W .. L .. .. Pct .. W .. L .. Pct
Maryland .. . 11 .. 3 .. . .786 . 22 .. 5 .. .815
UNC . .. .. . 11 .. 4 .. . .733 . 21 .. 4 .. .840
W. Forest . . 11 .. 4 .. . .733 . 20 .. 5 .. .800
Virginia .. . 11 .. 4 .. . .733 . 20 .. 7 .. .741
Ga. Tech .. .. 7 .. 7 .. . .500 . 17 . 10 .. .630
Florida St. .. 5 . 10 .. . .333 . 12 . 13 .. .480
N.C. State ... 4 . 10 .. . .286 . 12 . 12 .. .500
Clemson ... .. 3 . 11 .. . .214 . 13 . 11 .. .542
Duke ... .. .. 2 . 12 .. . .143 . 12 . 15 .. .444
Wake Forest 79, North Carolina 70
Virginia 63, Virginia Tech 62
Maryland at Duke, 7 p.m.
N.C. State at Clemson, 7:30 p.m.
Florida St. at Ga. Tech, 7:30 p.m.
N.C. State at W. Forest, 1:30 p.m.
Ga. Tech at Clemson, 4 p.m.
Duke at UNC, 7:30 p.m.
Maryland at Virginia, 3:45 p.m.
End of regular season