1982: Smith wins first national title
The following story originally ran in the March 30, 1982 edition of The Daily Tar Heel.
NEW ORLEANS — And on the seventh try, Dean created national champions.
UNC coach Dean Smith, after six previous trips to the final four, finally came away with the big one — the NCAA collegiate basketball title — as the North Carolina Tar Heels beat the Georgetown Hoyas 63-62.
“I thought it was really just another game, but now that you talk to me after it’s over, it’s not,” Smith said. “I (am) very grateful to my players.”
Maybe he ought to be especially grateful to James Worthy, who scored 28 points and was named the tournament’s outstanding player.
But it took a 15-footer by Michael Jordan with 17 seconds left to give North Carolina the lead and the game.
“I didn’t see it go in,” Jordan said. “I was just praying it would go. I never did look at the ball.”
Worthy showed his worth when he took the ball with seven seconds left on an attempted pass from Georgetown’s Fred Brown to Eric Smith.
The 6-foot-9 junior, who will now consider going pro, dashed in front of the pass and dribbled it downcourt until he was fouled with two seconds left.
He missed both free throws, but it didn’t matter; North Carolina was national champion.
“Champions, not finalists,” assistant coach Eddie Folger shouted. “We’re champions.”
But it was never easy, as the Hoyas pressured the Heels the whole game defensively.
“We exchanged baskets, and it could have gone either way,” said UNC sophomore Sam Perkins. “They made us hustle and work for it. They made us work for everything.”
The Hoyas’ pressure defense gave North Carolina trouble at the start, and Georgetown opened it up with a six-point lead at 12-6 seven minutes into the game.
But Worthy scored 10 straight points, including a dunk off a missed shot by Matt Doherty, to tie the score for the first time at 20-20.
The Tar Heels took the lead for the first time at 25-24 on a free throw by Chris Brust. Worthy gave the Heels their biggest lead of the first half at 29-26 on a patented turn-around.
But baskets by Pat Ewing and Eric “Sleepy” Floyd gave the Hoyas a 32-31 halftime lead.
The Tar Heels could not seem to get anything going for much of the first half except for Worthy’s efforts and five goaltending calls on Ewing.
Ewing did his share of scoring for his team, too, in the first half, canning 10, as did Floyd.
Worthy owned the half for the Heels, scoring 18 points.
But in the second half, Jordan got the Heels started early with six points in the first four minutes to give them a 39-36 lead.
Georgetown’s Ewing and Floyd, both all-tourney selections, combined for the next 11 points, and the Hoyas were suddenly up 49-45 with 12 minutes left.
The game had many big plays, but perhaps the one that turned the tide and got the Tar Heel fans saying ‘not this year, Georgetown,’ was a worthy dunk over fellow Gastonia native Floyd.
Floyd fouled and Worthy hit the free throw to close the gap to one at 49-48.
The teams traded baskets until Floyd missed for Georgetown, and Worthy came back with a flying dunk off the break to give UNC a 54-53 lead.
Within two minutes, the score was tied and the Hoyas had the ball, but Worthy stole the ball, drove down the floor and was fouled.
He hit the first, missed the second. But Jordan tapped the rebound, and Doherty recovered it.
The Tar Heels slowed it down, and Ewing fouled Jimmy Black, also an all-tournament pick. Black sank them both for a 59-56 advantage.
Brown came back within seconds to score for Georgetown.
The Tar Heels had seen enough and they spread it to the four corners.
Two minutes later, Jordan drove in aggressively and laid one in over the outstretched arms of Ewing for a 61-58 lead.
The Tar Heels elected to stop play completely and did not look to score unless it was a layup.
Smith fouled Doherty, who missed the free throw, and Georgetown rebounded.
With 55 seconds left, Floyd, who ended with 18 points, put in a one-hander in the lane to give the Hoyas a 62-61 edge.
The Tar Heels held the ball until Coach Smith called for a timeout with 32 seconds left.
They again stalled until the Jordan shot heard ’round the country.
“It was a long time coming for Coach Smith,” said a teary-eyed Black, who played in his last collegiate game.
“I feel so good, I can’t even speak. I’m so happy for him.”
“This was the only year it would have bothered me to lose, in that I thought we had the best basketball team,” Smith said.
The Tar Heels last won the national championship in 1957.
“I had a lot of questions about Dean Smith and the Tar Heels,” said one Hoya fan while watching the post-game celebration.
“I guess I got my answer.”
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