CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-Finally.
It took a bright class of new players, a new coach and even a new millennium, but the Virginia men's basketball team finally broke its 19-year losing streak at North Carolina.
Junior reserve shooting guard Keith Friel sparked the Cavalier offense in the second half to spur a 90-76 Cav victory over the Tar Heels yesterday at the Dean Smith Center.
The win marked Virginia's first victory at the 14-year-old Dean Dome. The Cavaliers (18-8, 8-5 ACC) had lost all 14 games they had played against the Heels (16-10, 7-5) at their state-of-the-art facility. Yesterday's triumph was the first win in Chapel Hill since 1981 for the Cavs, who improve to 4-56 all-time at Carolina.
"This was a tremendous win for us," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said. "The guys played with tremendous courage and aggressiveness. Our biggest concern coming in was convincing them that we could win. We never said that we've never won here. We always believed that we could win."
Friel, a transfer from Notre Dame, entered the game with Virginia up eight with 10:48 to go in the second half. Right off the bat, the 6-foot-4 guard hit a three-pointer to extend the lead to 11. After Carolina power forward Kris Lang made two free throws, Friel struck again from long range, this time off a dribble. Another three and two free throws by the Durham, N.H., native added to the Cav lead. Friel's 11 points in a mere four minutes put Virginia up 17 with only 7:40 to go.
After the onslaught, Carolina never pulled closer than seven points for the remainder of the game.
"We did well in the second half," Tar Heel Coach Bill Guthridge said. "We went with a smaller lineup, and we were doing a good job until Friel hit those threes."
Freshman bruiser Travis Watson dominated Carolina 7-footer Brendan Haywood with an 18-point, 11-rebound performance. The big man's giant game, combined with 16 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore forward Chris Williams, gave Virginia its eighth Conference win. The last time the Cavs won eight ACC games was 1994-95, when they tied for first in the Conference and made the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
"We knew Travis could play with Haywood," Gillen said. "On the road, we'd rather go inside than shoot jumpers. We try to get the ball in to the block, and if Travis is double-teamed, then he kicks it out."
The Cavaliers took hold of the game midway through the first half with a 13-4 run highlighted by Watson's smooth inside maneuvers and long-range jumpers by junior point guard Donald Hand. Down 37-24, a frustrated Guthridge called on his reserves to try to stop the Cavalier charge.
Carolina sophomore forward Jason Capel contributed 17 points in the loss. Freshman star Joseph Forte, who poured in 27 in an 87-85 Tar Heel loss Jan. 18 in Charlottesville, was held to 13 points by freshman guard Roger Mason Jr., a Good Counsel (Md.) graduate who faced Forte when the latter starred at DeMatha High.
"We've had our battles," Mason said. "I played with him all summer. It's a back-home thing. I know his game and he knows my game"