Santa Clara Upsets No. 4 North Carolina, 77-66
|Santa Clara def. #4 North Carolina|
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What They Are Saying
Nov. 19, 2004
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. - Roy Williams traveled a long way to get outfoxed by an old golfing buddy.
The cold-shooting Tar Heels lost their opener for only the fifth time since 1930 and will certainly lose their highest preseason ranking in seven years.
And Williams blamed himself for not having his team better prepared, but also gave credit to his longtime friend, Santa Clara coach Dick Davey.
"I've got to do a heck of a lot better job and do the little things we've talked about all along," Williams said. "We are extremely disappointed. Ticked off is what I am, but I'm ticked off at myself not at the kids."
Williams invited Davey golfing at fancy Cypress Point earlier in the week - and when their teams met on the basketball court, Santa Clara always seemed closer to the hole.
Niesen and 6-foot-2 dynamo Doron Perkins scored inside consistently, while the Broncos got most of the big rebounds. Santa Clara mostly kept North Carolina on the perimeter, where the Heels' poor shooting doomed them in their first game on the West Coast in four years.
Niesen forced himself to ignore the name on North Carolina's baby blue uniforms and just play.
"I don't think I'm very good, I just play really hard," said Niesen, who made 10 of his 14 shots. "I'm not afraid of anyone, man."
Sean May had 19 points and nine rebounds in the first meeting between these schools since Michael Jordan's playing days. Rashad McCants scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half before fouling out in the final minute.
When it ended, Niesen threw the ball up high enough to hit the overhead scoreboard, then walked in front of the fans, holding out his jersey while the crowd cheered.
"It feels like they're more athletic at every position," said Perkins, who added 11 points and nine rebounds. "We came out with energy we've never come with before."
North Carolina shot 36.5 percent and went 14-for-24 from the free throw line - not exactly the kind of basketball expected from a top-five team.
Bailey finished with 20 points for Santa Clara (3-1), which already played three games in the NABC Classic last week, including a 34-point loss to host New Mexico.
North Carolina never looked comfortable on either end of the floor, probably in part because the Heels were without suspended point guard Raymond Felton.
"We didn't get a real feel of the game," said freshman Quentin Thomas, a former prep star in Oakland who earned the start in place of Felton. "Our shots weren't falling, but at the same time we couldn't turn it up on defense."
They began a stretch of seven games in 16 days with an ugly offensive night and didn't match the energy of the Broncos, who beat a top-five team for only the third time in Davey's 13-year tenure.
But he was more interested in scouting the Stanford-San Francisco game afterward than celebrating one big win.
Bailey made back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Broncos a 45-32 lead with 15:16 remaining, and Santa Clara kept making big baskets down the stretch to avoid any drama late.
Williams went with Thomas over Melvin Scott and Wes Miller to replace Felton, who served a one-game suspension for playing in a non-certified summer league. Thomas had his prep uniform retired at halftime.
North Carolina returns all five starters from a team that went 19-11 last season, and Williams wants the Heels to be better defensively this season. But after this poor offensive performance he'll certainly have them working even harder on their shooting, too.
The Tar Heels had won 68 of their previous 73 season openers and played Santa Clara for only the third time. North Carolina won the last meeting in 1982, led by Jordan's 22 points in the 79-56 victory.
Even when they weren't under pressure, the taller and bigger Tar Heels couldn't knock down open shots - reserve C.J. Hooker missed an open dunk with 20 seconds left. They were routinely beaten to loose balls.
North Carolina forced shots in the first half, but went hard to the offensive boards to get second and third opportunities.
But the Tar Heels went cold from the floor and didn't score for more than five minutes during one stretch, while the Broncos used a 20-4 run on the way to a 29-26 halftime lead.