RICHMOND, Va. - A backboard wasn't all that came crashing down around North Carolina yesterday.
The shattered glass that lay on the Richmond Coliseum floor, courtesy of a follow-up dunk by Texas Tech's Darvin Ham, served as a symbol for the No. 6-seeded Tar Heels, who were taken apart by the third-seeded Red Raiders in a 92-73 loss in the East Regional.
Ham's slam, with 12: 06 left in the first half, tied the score at 16. It also sent pieces of glass all the way to the other free-throw line, and sent both teams into their locker rooms during a 26-minute delay. In a sense, only one returned. Texas Tech's Jason Sasser and Cory Carr hit three-pointers, Carr made a layup and Tony Battie scored for a 26-16 lead. North Carolina closed within two, but that was just a tease.
The Red Raiders' last five baskets of the half were from beyond the arc, including three in a row by Carr. The lead was up to 12, and soon the nation's longest winning streak would be at 23.
"Anytime you beat a program like North Carolina, it's a special win, there's no question about that," said coach James Dickey, whose team will play No. 2 seed Georgetown on Thursday in Atlanta in its first trip to the Sweet 16.
"I didn't want a particular game to define this basketball team or this season, but I knew that much of what happened in March would follow this team forever."
Sasser led all scorers with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting. But one of his misses will be remembered most because it was grabbed by Ham (14 points) and helped create the bizarre scene.
"The first thing that went through my mind was that I missed a shot," Sasser said. "Then, I saw Darvin flying through the air and the glass shattered. The next thing that went through my mind was the ESPY [Awards]. Even though Darvin had the big dunk, they're still going to have to show my missed hook."
Ham, a 220-pound senior who made all seven of his attempts from the field as part of Tech's 58.8-percent shooting, said he once broke a rim in junior college, but never a backboard.
"My teammates were already hyped up, and that play really just set the whole thing off. I was just feeling so good and ready to play that I wanted to run around the court and jump up and down and do some flips. Sasser was giving me chest bumps, and I just wanted to flex."
Carr had 19 points off the bench. Battie contributed 16 points and 14 rebounds, and point guard Jason Martin had 10 assists and only one turnover.
Texas Tech's perimeter shooting destroyed the Tar Heels (21-11), who lost four of their final six games and failed to reach the Sweet 16 for just the second time in the past 16 years. Sasser and Smith both hit twice from three-point range early in the second half for a 63-38 bulge. It didn't matter how closely they were guarded, they still found the net.
The Red Raiders (30-1) have tied for the fifth-most wins ever by a Southwest Conference school. And they don't look like a team that is content to stay there.
"They're probably seeded too low," said North Carolina coach Dean Smith. "I know it's hard for them to get the recognition, but they sure got it today.
"Georgetown had better watch out."
Pub Date: 3/18/96
Stephon Marbury, Ga. Tech .... .... .... 29
Jason Sasser, Texas Tech ..... .... .... 27
Allen Iverson, Georgetown .... .... .... 25
Jason Lawson, Villanova ...... .... .... 23
Damon Flint, Cincinnati ...... .... .... 22
Ben Davis, Arizona ....... ..... ....... 14
Tony Battie, Texas Tech ........ ....... 14
Jahidi White, Georgetown ....... ....... 12
Jess Settles, Iowa ....... ...... ...... 12
Danny Fortson, Cincinnati ....... ...... 11
Jerome Williams, Georgetown ..... ...... 11
Tim Duncan, Wake Forest ......... ...... 11
Reggie Geary, Arizona ........... ...... 13
Drew Barry, Georgia Tech ........ ...... 10
Jason Martin, Texas Tech ........ ...... 10
Keith LeGree, Cincinnati ........ ...... 10
Stephon Marbury, Ga. Tech ....... ...... 9
Louisville over Villanova:
DeJuan Wheat, held without a field goal in the first half, scored 17 of his 19 points after halftime and helped slow Kerry Kittles, Villanova's All-American. The Wildcats, first-round losers to Old Dominion last year, when they were also a third seed, again failed to reach the Sweet 16 despite facing a tired sixth-seeded Louisville team that needed overtime to beat Tulsa in the first round.
Kansas over Santa Clara: Kansas scored the first 12 points of the game, holding the jittery Broncos scoreless for the opening 4: 43. Santa Clara point guard Steve Nash, who had 28 points in a first-round win over Maryland, missed his first eight shots and finished with seven points on 1-of-11 shooting.
Conference USA: In its inaugural season, it is sending half of its tournament invitees to regional semifinals. The Sweet 16 appearances will be Cincinnati's third in five years under Bob Huggins and Louisville's third in the last four years.
Atlantic Coast Conference: After starting the tournament with six teams, it has two teams in the regional semifinals. North Carolina failed to reach the round of 16 for the second time in 16 years.
By the numbers
Arizona, eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament three of the past four years, is in the Sweet 16 for the fifth time since 1988. The Wildcats reached the Final Four in 1988 and 1994. . . . In the 100 years of Big Ten basketball, only eight players have gotten at least 400 points, 200 rebounds and 100 assists in a single season. Iowa's Jess Settles finished his career with 484 points, 239 rebounds and 99 assists. . . . Georgia Tech improved to 3-2 overall in St. Patrick's Day games.
They said it
"We just had a team vote. It was definitely the cheese hats that did it, no question about that. The cheese hats have already been boarded on the plane. I have been assured that cheese works in Minnesota if you're not playing a Minnesota team." Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, who showed up Saturday in a foam cheesehead along with guards Tony Rutland and Rusty LaRue.
"It was like we were playing in Tucson. You can't call this a neutral site by any means." Iowa forward Kenyon Murray after a loss to Arizona at Arizona State's University Activity Center.
Kentucky (30-2) vs. Utah (27-6) The key to beating Kentucky is believed to be a strong inside game, which Utah has with forwards Brandon Jessie and second-team All-American Keith Van Horn. The Wildcats also needs to play intelligent defense as the Utes led the nation in free-throw shooting at 78 percent.
Pub Date: 3/18/96
Point of attack