BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A lot from freshman Joseph Forte and a little bit of Tar Heels tradition turned out to be too much for top-seeded Stanford.
Forte hit two huge 3-pointers and North Carolina, considered a borderline pick for the NCAA tournament at the outset, upset Stanford 60-53 Sunday in the second round of the South Regional.
"Maybe now we're pushing the right buttons," Tar Heels coach Bill Guthridge said.
Ed Cota added 10 assists, seven points and seven rebounds as the eighth-seeded Tar Heels (20-13) recorded their 30th straight 20-win season. They also quieted, for now, speculation that Guthridge should be replaced.
"We always feel like we're in the game. We just have to play North Carolina ball," Cota said.
Forte had 17 points, sparking a decisive 10-0 run in the closing minutes and punctuating his effort with a game-ending dunk.
"I was struggling most of the game. Coach told me I was shooting like I was scared and to not shoot at all if I'm going to shoot scared," Forte said.
North Carolina improved to 9-0 overall against Stanford and more important, moved on to the regional semifinals Friday night in Austin, Texas, against Tennessee.
Stanford (27-4), ranked No. 1 for much of the season, joined Arizona as top-seeded teams to lose in the second round.
"It is numbing to think the season is over," Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery said.
David Moseley scored 17 points for Stanford, but emotional leader Mark Madsen was limited to five.
Hotshot Casey Jacobsen also had only five and was outplayed in the freshman matchup with Forte. Jacobsen missed a pair of 3-point tries near the end, and finished 2-for-12 from the floor.
"This team was special and it tears my heart out that I will never get the chance to play with Madsen, Moseley and the rest of the seniors again," Jacobsen said.
The game figured to be a battle of big men, pitting 7-foot Brendan Haywood of North Carolina against Stanford's tall front line. Instead, the guards decided it.
Cota played all 40 minutes for the second straight game, having done it Friday night in a 84-70 win over Missouri. He looked tired at the start, as did the rest of the Tar Heels, and Stanford took an eight-point lead late in the first half.
But North Carolina went on a 14-0 run that spanned the break and seemed to get fresher as the afternoon wore on.
Jarron Collins scored six points and his twin brother, Jason, added a basket as the Cardinal went ahead 47-43 with nine minutes left. After that, it was all Tar Heels.
After Haywood hit a hook shot, Forte had a driving layup to tie it. Then, with the shot clock expiring, Forte made a 3-pointer from the top of the key. After Jacobsen missed another long jumper, Forte hit a 3 to make it 53-47.
With the Carolina faithful standing, Guthridge told Cota with 37 seconds left, "We don't have to shoot anymore."
He was right. After the Tar Heels made five foul shots to protect the lead, Forte broke away from an emphatic slam for the final points.
Ryan Mendez, a key contributor in Friday's 84-65 romp over South Carolina State, had 12 points for the Cardinal.
Haywood, who a career-high 28 points in the opening round, had 12 and blocked four shots.