Originally created 03/14/97

Tar Heels pull out milestone victory



WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - It's a tie, but it wasn't easy.

In a surprisingly close game, Dean Smith matched Adolph Rupp as the winningest coach in NCAA history Thursday night as North Carolina beat Fairfield 82-74 in the opening round of the East Regional.

With all the pregame talk surrounding victory No. 876, somebody forgot to tell Fairfield it was supposed to play like a No. 16 seed. The Stags (11-19) were one of two teams in the 64-team field with a losing record, and they played the top seed in the East.

Instead, Fairfield played a nearly flawless first half and stayed with the Tar Heels (25-6) until the final minute before the pro-North Carolina crowd in Joel Coliseum, just 80 miles from the Chapel Hill campus, stood and saluted Smith.

The victory gave Smith an 876-253 record in his 36th season. Rupp put together an 876-190 record in 41 years at Kentucky. Smith already has a few records all to himself. The win was his 62nd in the NCAA tournament and it was his 23rd consecutive appearance.

Smith said the Tar Heels won by playing their best basketball of the season in the second half, and even then there were times that he thought "maybe it wasn't going to be enough."

He sidestepped a question about the record. He will claim the mark outright if North Carolina wins on Saturday against Indiana or Colorado who played Thursday's final game.

In earlier games in the first round, California survived a scare from Princeton 55-52 and Villanova whipped Long Island 101-91.

Tony Gonzalez, the tight end-turned-power forward, scored all five of California's points in the final minute as the Bears beat Princeton.

Gonzalez, whose aggressive play helped California overcome a 29-23 halftime deficit, gave the Bears the lead for at 52-50 with a fadeaway 12-foot side jumper with 58 seconds left.

He made the front end of a 1-and-1 with 33 seconds left for a three-point lead. Brian Earl scored on a backdoor cut with 15 seconds left to bring the 12th-seeded Tigers (24-4) within one, but Gonzalez made both shots on a 1-and-1 with 14 seconds left to make it 55-52.

Princeton, which knocked defending national champion UCLA out in the first round last year, had a final chance but Gabe Lewullis' 3-point attempt with three seconds left was blocked by Alfred Grigsby.

California was playing its fourth game since losing leading scorer and Pac-10 player of the year Ed Gray to a broken foot.

Long Island University had talked about setting the tempo, but it was Villanova that gave the nation's top scoring team a lesson in fast-paced basketball. The fourth-seeded Wildcats (24-9) used an 8-0 run to end the first half and a lightning-quick 19-1 barrage in the opening 3« minutes of the second period.

Freshman Tim Thomas, a key for the Wildcats on the fast break, scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while Jason Lawson added 21 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks.

Charles Jones, the nation's leading scorer at 29.9 points per game, had 37 to lead No. 13 seed LIU, which set the single-game tournament record with 42 3-point attempts. The previous mark of 41 was set in 1990 by Loyola Marymount against UNLV in the West Regional finals.

PRINCETON (52) - Johnson 2-7 0-1 4, Lewullis 3-9 1-2 10, Goodrich 4-5 1-2 10, Earl 5-11 0-1 13, Henderson 7-9 0-0 15, Mastaglio 0-0 0-0 0, Rosenfeld 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 2-6 52.

CALIFORNIA (55) - Grigsby 4-6 2-2 10, Gonzalez 5-10 3-6 13, Stewart 2-3 0-0 4, Duck 6-14 2-2 16, McGruder 1-6 2-2 5, Marks 2-8 3-4 7, McQueen 0-4 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 12-16 55.

Halftime- Princeton 29-23.

3-Point goals- Princeton 8-21 (Lewullis 3-7, Earl 3-8, Goodrich 1-1, Henderson 1-1, Johnson 0-4), Cal 3-11 (Duck 2-7, McGruder 1-1, McQueen 0-3). Fouled out- None. Rebounds- Princeton 18 (Johnson 4), Cal 38 (Grigsby, McGruder 8). Assists- Princeton 13 (Henderson 5), Cal 10 (McGruder 7). Total fouls- Princeton 13, Cal 13. A- 14,368.

LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY (91) - Parker 6-18 7-12 21, Campbell 7-18 2-3 17, Drew 0-0 2-2 2, Masciale 1-6 0-0 3, Jones 14-37 2-3 37, Picinic 3-9 0-0 9, Browne 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Goodall 0-2 0-0 0, Noureddine 0-0 0-0 0, Cragan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-95 13-20 91.

VILLANOVA (101) - Thomas 11-21 5-6 28, Kornegay 2-5 3-6 7, Lawson 8-15 5-7 21, Celestand 7-11 0-1 17, Williams 6-12 2-6 15, Brown 1-4 0-0 2, Caouette 4-4 2-2 11, Noone 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-72 17-28 101.

Halftime- Villanova 48-43.

3-Point goals- LIU 14-42 (Jones 7-15, Picinic 3-8, Parker 2-6, Masciale 1-4, Campbell 1-8, Goodall 0-1), Villanova 6-14 (Celestand 3-5, Caouette 1-1, Thomas 1-3, Williams 1-4, Brown 0-1). Fouled out- Campbell, Caouette. Rebounds- LIU 45 (Jones 13), Villanova 60 (Thomas 15). Assists- LIU 12 (Masciale 4), Villanova 25 (Celestand 9). Total fouls- LIU 21, Villanova 21. A- 14,368.