Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TAR HEELS TRIP UP RAMS

NORTH CAROLINA 68, Rhode Island 67 OT – Not one to let their rival Duke corner the market on anything, the North Carolina Tar Heels took the ugly brand of basketball that got the Blue Devils past Purdue last week in a Sweet Sixteen game that was just plain hard to watch and took it to all new level of ugly.

UG-LEEE.

Statistics? Cover your eyes.

Carolina shot 34.9% on 26 of 83 shooting…yes, they missed 57 shots. They were 2 for 17 from behind the arc 11.6% and a lousy 8 for 20 from the free throw line. Oh wait, they also committed 17 turnovers and it seemed at times like two or three of them somehow happened on the same play…

Somehow, they won.

Out rebounding the Rams by 15 helped and Rhode Island’s mediocre shooting also played a key role as well.

Deon Thompson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Larry Drew II scored the Heels last five points in regulation to force overtime.

Will Graves added 14 points and Tyler Zeller 13 for the Tar Heels (20-16), who will try to make some bittersweet history Thursday night against Dayton by becoming the first school to follow a national title with an NIT title.

The game ended on a slightly controversial note. North Carolina had the ball with about 5 seconds remaining in overtime and the shot clock about to expire when Larry Drew II forced up a desperate shot. The rebound eventually wound up in the hands of Rhode Island forward Lamonte Ulmer, who lost control as he rushed up court moments before the buzzer tripping over Wayne Graves who also was diving for the loose ball.

When asked if he made contact with Ulmer, Graves said “no comment.”

While the ESPN television announcers insisted that “tripping” is a foul even if it was inadvertent, however no written accounts of the game from AP or any major newspaper has stressed the point. Perhaps it has something to do with the definition of tripping? A called foul would have sent Ulmer to the line. The no-call was certainly ironic as Rhode Island’s Delroy James missed two free throws with 28.6 seconds that allowed UNC to score forcing the extra period.

According to the Providence Journal: The circumstances of the final play will lie in debate in Kingston for awhile. While it was clear Ulmer fell to his knees, it was not clear how he got there. Ulmer left the Ram dressing room quickly and was not available for comment.

“We were both kind of out-scrapping each other but it seemed like they made more plays down the stretch,” said Rhody coach Jim Baron. “We got the rebound (on the final play) and were ready to go. I thought there was some contact and he tripped. He clearly tripped running down the court.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams wasn’t happy that his defense was so close to Ulmer with the final seconds ticking away.

“I don’t know what happened, but something probably should have been called there at the end,” said Williams. “I don’t know if our guy tripped over somebody else but it looked weird. I feel badly that the game ended like that.”

It is a well known fact that NCAA referees are reluctant to determine the outcome of games by blowing their whistle in the final seconds. This appeared to be another example of that well-established pattern and it was complicated by the unusualness of the play.

Controversy aside and to the Tar Heels credit, while relegated to playing in the tournament for also-rans, they have gone on the road to defeat two teams in Mississippi State and Alabama-Birmingham that were sitting squarely on the bubble on selection Sunday, then knocked off a Rhode Island team that had the best RPI of any program that failed to make the NCAA tournament.

To read more, click here (Raleigh News&Observer) or click here (Providence Journal).

(Photos by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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