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North Carolina Tops Michigan, 77-71, in NCAA Title Game

By Steve Berkowitz
The Washington Post

NEW ORLEANS

It has taken 32 seasons, 23 trips to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament and nine marches to the Final Four, but North Carolina Coach Dean Smith finally has his second national championship.

It came in the form of the Tar Heels' 77-71 victory over Michigan in the NCAA tournament national final Monday night at the Louisiana Superdome, which soon may be nicknamed the Louisiana Deandome. This season's team finishes with a 34-4 record that improves Smith's career record to 774-223. Kentucky's Adolph Rupp, with 876 victories, is the only coach with more Division I victories than Smith.

Michigan (31-5) and its Fab Five of center Juwan Howard, forwards Chris Webber and Ray Jackson and guards Jalen Rose and Jimmy King have been to the national finals in those players' freshman and sophomore years. They will have to try again.

Michigan trailed by 72-67 with a minute to play, but scored a basket, forced a quick turnover and scored again to move within 72-71 with 35 seconds left. The Wolverines fouled Tar Heels forward Pat Sullivan with 20 seconds left and he made only the first of a one-and-one.

Michigan got the rebound, Webber raced downcourt and called a timeout with 11 seconds left. But the Wolverines were out of timeouts -- a violation that resulted in a technical foul call.

"In the heat of the moment, strange things happen," Michigan Coach Steve Fisher said. "Chris said he heard someone hollering and calling for a timeout. It's an awful way to end the season."

North Carolina guard Donald Williams, the game's most valuable player, made the two free throws for 75-71, the Tar Heels inbounded the ball and Williams added two more free throws after being fouled with eight seconds left.

North Carolina led by 48-40 with a little less than 18 minutes to play, but Michigan used a 12-5 run to make it 53-52 with 141/2 minutes left. The game see-sawed from there until Michigan took a 62-61 lead, North Carolina committed a 45-second violation and Rose made a three-point goal, giving the Wolverines a 65-61 lead with 51/2 minutes remaining.

At 67-63, Williams made his fifth three-point goal of the game and Michigan missed on two shots. Point guard Derrick Phelps then drove the lane for the basket that put North Carolina in front by 68-67 with 3:10 to play.

King missed everything on a three-point try, and after a North Carolina timeout, the Tar Heels worked the ball inside to forward George Lynch who scored over Howard for 70-67. Rose then turned over the ball while trying to make a pass in a crowded lane.

Michigan, which had only three team fouls, began chasing and fouling to move North Carolina toward the one-and-one. The Tar Heels beat the defense for a layup by Montross off a pass from Lynch for 72-67 with a minute left.

But the Wolverines weren't done. Jackson made a jumper for 72-69 with 46 seconds left, Michigan called timeout and forced a turnover in the back court by Brian Reese. Webber scored off an offensive rebound, making it 72-71 with 35 seconds left.

Asked if he had told his team it was out of timeouts after calling one with 46 seconds left, Fisher said: "We thought we did that. Apparently, we didn't get point-specific enough. ... I'm the guy that's at fault. I'm the guy who should have made certain everybody knew."

North Carolina built a 42-36 lead during a first half in which the Wolverines seemed less emotional than they were in the early stages of Saturday's emotionally draining overtime victory over Kentucky in a national semifinal.

They allowed North Carolina to grab nine of its 19 rebounds on the offensive end, and the Tar Heels took advantage with 15 second-chance points. Michigan also committed 10 turnovers to North Carolina's three. In addition, at halftime, Jackson had three fouls and Webber, Howard and King two apiece. The fouls helped prevent any of them from playing more than 15 minutes.