Woods made both free throws. Instead of being down by three points, Woods’ will gave the Tar Heels the lead and gave the crowd everything it could ask for on Tuesday night in a 75-69 win.
For a time in the second half, UNC experienced one of those stretches of basketball that makes Chapel Hill a special place to play.
“We lost ourselves in the game,” Woods said.
There was defensive intensity, with a dwindling shot clock seemingly marking the end of as many Fighting Irish possessions as swishes of the net. And the finishing ability of first-year forward Nassir Little, who had 11 points in 11 minutes in the second half, finally allowed UNC to break into the paint.
“I think I came in and I just started attacking the basket and I really think I fired up the team,” Little said. “And from there we just kind of took advantage of that and kept rolling with it.”
It wasn’t always pretty — head coach Roy Williams described the first half as playing “without a brain.” And even with that sublime stretch in the second half there were moments where UNC looked lost. But the team is learning.
“I got my wish,” head coach Roy Williams said. “I wanted to win one ugly.”
You don’t have to win pretty for it to be fun, although Williams said he wouldn’t complain about the team giving itself a bit more comfort room.
A 12-1 run over a 5:35 span in the second half all but sealed it with UNC up 69-59. The Tar Heels bled down the clock at the end before it finally ticked down to zero. This followed a flurry of fouls and missed free throws as the lead got cut to four before Woods knocked down two more at the stripe to deliver the six-point margin of victory.
There’ll be more games like this, and probably much, much better ones.
But UNC moved to 3-1 in the ACC, and the team looked like it was shaking off an unsteady three halves of basketball after a demoralizing ACC home opener to Louisville on Saturday and a weak first half against Notre Dame.
However they did it, they opened the lid on the kind of Smith Center pandemonium that marks another ACC basketball season in Chapel Hill.
If Tuesday night is any indicator, it’s going to have a lot of Little dunks, Johnson dishes and Coby White threes.
And when those have the Tar Heel faithful on their feet, it will be moments like Woods’ block that send the crowd into a frenzy that generations of UNC fans have experienced.
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