The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 9th

Inspired Tar Heels Break Streak

After a visit from 12 former UNC players, the men's basketball team beat a struggling FSU team Sunday at the Smith Center.

Having been repeatedly beaten over the head with the UNC record book that so many past players had eloquently written, the young Tar Heels had begun to feel a bit orphaned this season. They wondered if the old Tar Heels were embarrassed or even ashamed. Perhaps they would disown their juniors, leaving them on a lonely doorstep.

Instead, 1981 graduate Al Wood and 11 other alums flocked upon the Smith Center to give the youngsters a reassuring pat on the back. The inspirational pregame visit moved the Tar Heels. The ghosts of basketball past said they supported them through the tough times. But the Tar Heels decided enough was enough and won their first game since Jan. 27 and their first home game since Dec. 30, a 95-85 victory against Florida State on Sunday.

"Ah, that was great. I could just see it in those guys' eyes, the pride," said freshman Melvin Scott. "They're there for us, and that meant a lot to us. They really touched us, and we went out and not only tried to win it for them, but win it for ourselves with some pride."

Mike Cooke, who played on Dean Smith's first three teams at UNC, related his experiences as a player to the current struggles. But Wood's speech, which borrowed from Isaiah 40:30-31, carried the most weight.

"He came at us spiritually," Scott said. "He gave us a little quote. The quote really meant for us to spread our wings. An eagle goes into a storm. The baby eagle is about to get put out there to fly. And he doesn't turn around because a storm's coming. He just spreads his wings and goes straight to the heart of the storm."

Adam Boone flew the highest, reaching a career-high 28 points. Boone, who scored 20 in the second half, knocked down three 3-pointers in a 2:43 span shortly after the break that jumpstarted a UNC offensive surge. His afternoon topped his previous career high of 23 set at Clemson -- the last time North Carolina (7-16, 3-10 in the ACC) won.

"I just felt if I had a step or a step and a half, I was going to shoot it," Boone said. "I don't always necessarily have that mentality."

Boone and seniors Kris Lang (21) and Jason Capel (20) became the first Tar Heel trio to net 20 points since Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Shammond Williams on Jan. 8, 1998.

Monte Cummings, who also scored 20 of his 28 in the second half, led FSU.

The Seminoles (10-13, 3-9) doubled Lang in the post, but with so many teammates on target -- UNC shot 55.4 percent and 50 percent from long distance -- Lang tied his career high with four assists.

"The last game I had a nice game against them, and I figured they were going to double-team me," said Lang, who had 23 at FSU. "I was anticipating that, and Adam Boone was hitting his shots."

So was his backcourt mate, Scott, just like in the Clemson win in which he had a career-high 17. Sunday, Scott made all five of his shots for 13 points.

"When Adam Boone's hitting, I know he's looking to be aggressive," Scott said. "Guys come out on him, and he'll drive it and get me open."

With the help of the guards, the Tar Heels are trying to climb out of the ACC dungeon and avoid the tournament's play-in game.

Baby steps for the program.

"This is a special place," Doherty said. "I don't think there's another place like North Carolina. To have guys go out of their way, I'm talking about traveling distances to get here, to be a part of that. It was really touching. Really touching."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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