Ademola Okulaja's three-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining gave No. 14 North Carolina a 67-66 victory over Virginia yesterday in Charlottesville, Va.
The Tar Heels, who swapped leads with the Cavaliers 10 times in the half, had fallen behind 65-64 on Adam Hall's three-pointer with 49 seconds left. A free throw by Chezley Watson gave the Cavaliers a two-point edge, but when he missed the second with 14.3 seconds left, it left the door open.
Okulaja spotted up in the right corner, took a pass from Ed Cota and nailed the shot to clinch third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the Tar Heels (21-7, 9-5), their 35th straight season in the league's top three.
"Ed just told me to spot up," Okulaja said. "He penetrated, and I think he wanted to take the shot, but two or three guys collapsed on him and I was wide-open. I think that's the biggest shot I've hit at Carolina."
The jumper ended a wild game in which the Tar Heels scored the first 15 points, let Virginia (14-14, 4-11) back in the game and then battled through a close second half when four was the largest lead.
For Virginia coach Pete Gillen, whose team has been short-handed all year with only six scholarship players, the effort in the home finale was monumental, especially since three players had been sick before the game.
Donald Hand, Willie Dersch and Chris Williams all had a stomach bug, Gillen said, and had been forced to skip the pre-game meal.
Hall led Virginia with 18 points, but Hand had 15 and seven assists, Williams had 10 of his 12 in the second half, including eight straight at one point, and Dersch hit two big free throws.
"We played like winners, even though we didn't win the game," Gillen said.
It was 26-12 when the Cavaliers caught fire, scoring 10 straight and 19 of 23 to take a 31-30 lead on Watson's reverse layup with 2: 10 left. A 6-footer by Cota with one second left gave the Tar Heels a 35-33 halftime lead.
Duke, infuriated when senior team captain Trajan Langdon was leveled and bloodied by a screen, used a 26-0 run at the end of the first half to put away Clemson, getting 22 points from Elton Brand for its 22nd straight victory.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was still emotional after the game.
"His lip just got shattered," Krzyzewski said of Langdon, who received seven stitches at halftime. "That's my main guy, so I'm going to be emotional about it. As soon as I stop being emotional, then someone else should sit here. If a kid get hurts from my team, I'm going to back him up."
Duke, which tied the ACC record for consecutive home wins at 36, needs a victory at North Carolina on Saturday to become the first team to go 16-0 in the ACC in a season. The ACC season expanded to 16 games when Florida State entered the league in 1992.
Wake Forest 67, Florida State 65: Broderick Hicks scored 12 of his 15 in the final 4 1/2 minutes as the Demon Deacons (15-11, 6-8) rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat the visiting Seminoles (12-14, 5-9).
Florida State built a 57-38 lead with 8: 09 left before making just three field goals the rest of the way.
Pub Date: 2/21/99