North Carolina (17-16) jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead in front of the 6,822 raucous fans in attendance and despite an immediate counterpunch from the Tribe, UNC held an advantage on the scoreboard for the majority of the first half. The Tar Heels took a 43-33 lead into the locker room, marking the first time since the Albany game on Dec. 30 that they had scored 40 or more points in the opening half.
William & Mary (22-11) stormed out of the break behind a 6-of-8 3-point shooting streak to claim a 59-55 lead with 11:53 remaining. The next eight minutes boasted six lead changes before North Carolina took control at foul line to slowly pull away in the final four minutes, connecting on nine of its last 12 free throws.
Deon Thompson scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds for North Carolina. Tyler Zeller added 13 points and five rebounds, while Marcus Ginyard contributed 12 points, four assists and five steals. David Schneider paced the Tribe with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting from 3-point range, and JohnMark Ludwick added 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
North Carolina connected on 49.1 percent (28-of-57) of its field goal attempts, while William & Mary shot 41.9 percent, including a staggering 16-of-43 mark from 3-point territory. The Tar Heels narrowly outrebounded the Tribe, 35-33.
INSIDE THE GAME
The proverbial perfect storm seemed to be brewing outside of Carmichael Arena on Tuesday night, as William & Mary brought its wheel barrow full of 279 made 3-pointers on the season to Chapel Hill to barrage UNC's soft perimeter defense (34.2 3-point defense ranks 175th nationally).
Tony Shaver's squad did not disappoint, jacking 43 3-pointers on the night and converting 16 of those attempts. College basketball players are fully aware of the 3-point arc and strive to minimize the inches between their toes and the line, but the Tribe members were often pulling up whenever there was an opening.
JohnMark Ludwick, a 6-foot-8 forward, drilled one of his five 3-pointers from approximately New Bern on the midcourt state of N.C. logo.
"They shot 43 3s," UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "I've never played or coached against anybody like that, but they do that because that's the intelligent thing for their team to do."
William & Mary connected on seven of their 21 3-point attempts in the first half, and then quickly boosted that percentage by knocking down six of its first eight long-range bombs to start the second stanza.
But North Carolina's man-to-man defense, led by Ginyard's shadowing of Schneider, slowly beat down the Tribe, leading to several forced shots in the game's waning minutes. William & Mary would miss 11 of its final 14 3-pointers.
"First of all, [Schneider's] a great shooter and a lot of those guys on the team can really shot the ball," Ginyard said. "It was difficult for us to get out there and challenge their shots, but I think just staying after it as a team and with everybody helping each other out on the perimeter, I think their legs wore down a little bit and they weren't able to make as many of those shots."
In the latest NCAA rankings, William & Mary ranked 11th nationally in turnover average, committing only 10.6 turnovers per game. The Tribe has coughed up fewer than 10 turnovers in 17 of their 32 contests this season.
The Tar Heels' size and athleticism helped shake up those rankings, forcing 17 turnovers by pressuring the ball and attacking the passing lanes.
"We were trying to be more active than we have been," Williams said. "It's hard because you can't do so many things that we would like to do defensively when you know they're going to shoot a lot of 3s… We tried to change our coverage on the screen on the ball three different times during the game. But we get some turnovers and we could have gotten a couple more if we had been a little more alert."
Five Tar Heels combined for 11 steals, led by Ginyard's five acts of thievery.
The first game ever played at Carmichael Auditorium took place on Dec. 4, 1965, against William & Mary, so it was only fitting that the Tribe was on hand for the first official men's game to beheld in this building in 24 years.
Recent renovations to suit the women's basketball program has reduced the capacity by several thousand and changed the name from Auditorium to Arena, but on Tuesday night, the ghosts that wrote Carmichael's history were alive and well.
There was no question that this Tar Heel squad experienced the loudest home game of the season in the first round of the N.I.T.
"It was a fun atmosphere," Williams said. "It wasn't as loud as it was in the old days because there were 3,000 more people in there, but it was a fun atmosphere for me to coach in. We've had some great games in the Smith Center, but this one was special and hopefully we can get this kind of atmosphere in the Smith Center all of the time."
Nevermind that UNC took some jabs in the media this week for not having the Smith Center available due to construction. In a season filled with more downs than ups, this game's location may have provided the ideal ending for a difficult '09-10 campaign.
"I've played in a lot of games wearing this North Carolina jersey," Thompson said. "I've played in a couple of Final Fours, but being out there on that floor tonight with those fans and all of the history that's happened in this Auditorium is something that I'll always remember."
But as fun as Tuesday was, Carmichael may be called on again early next week. If North Carolina upsets Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday (noon/ESPN) and N.C. State upends UAB later that afternoon, the old rivals could reunite once more in this sacred building.