Bitten by Belmont
Belmont’s 3-point shooting has carried it to six NCAA Tournaments in eight years. On Sunday, it led the Bruins to one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Smith Center.
J.J. Mann (28 points) hit three 3s in the final 62 seconds, including the go-ahead shot with 14 seconds left as Belmont scored the final eight points and defeated No. 12 North Carolina 83-80.
It was only the second loss in 83 non-conference home games for UNC under coach Roy Williams – the first was a win by No. 12 Illinois over the unranked Tar Heels in 2005.
The Bruins (3-1) were almost as effective from behind the arc as UNC (2-1) was from the free-throw line.
The Tar Heels shot 48.3 percent from the field, outrebounded the Bruins by 15 and had three fewer turnovers. But it made just 22 of 48 free throws (45.8 percent), with J.P. Tokoto going a dismal 4-of-16 from the line.
For a team that is missing its two best shooters – guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald are out indefinitely because of eligibility issues with the NCAA – missing that many free points proved too much to overcome, despite a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds from forward James Michael McAdoo.
“They aren’t great victories unless you beat great programs,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said. “So it’s an awfully big win for our kids and it’s a big win for the school.”
UNC still had a chance to avoid the upset after Mann’s final 3 made it 81-80. Williams said his philosophy is not to call timeout with more than seven seconds left, but the Tar Heels were out of sync in their final possession, which ended when Tokoto missed a turnaround fadeaway from just inside the free throw line with six seconds left.
“I wanted (point guard Marcus Paige) to go get the ball but I haven’t practiced it enough,” Williams said. “We didn’t execute at that point and that’s my fault.”
Belmont’s Drew Windler got the rebound and passed downcourt to Caleb Chowbay, who made a lay-up in the final second to start a raucous celebration from the Bruins.
“It was kind of new, and in the heat of the moment you forget things like that,” Paige said. “So (inbounder Brice Johnson) wanted to call timeout, and we wanted to go, and it was just confusion.”
Paige finished with 17 points and five assists, but the sophomore turned the ball over on three of UNC’s last five possessions and Belmont finished the game on a 13-2 run.
The Bruins have made more 3s than any school but Duke since entering Division I in ’96-’97. They shot 15 of 37 (40.5 percent) from long range and 20 of 22 (90.9 percent) from the line.
Williams said his players recently shot 200 free throws each during a practice and that Tokoto made 84 percent while McAdoo made 81 percent.
But McAdoo finished 11 of 19 while Tokoto missed eight straight by himself in the first half, finally getting loud applause from the crowd of 15,205 when he broke the streak.
“After I airballed the first free throw and the second one was short, it started getting in my head that I have to put more behind it, and that’s just not how I (should approach) my free throws,” Tokoto said. “It’s definitely a snowball effect just seeing them clunk out. It was all mental for me.”
Belmont led by 11 with 15 minutes left, but the Tar Heels used a 14-0 run over six minutes to take the lead with 8:32 remaining.
The lead got up to eight when McAdoo put back a missed free throw by Tokoto with 2:37 left, but the Tar Heels scored only two more points the rest of the way and Mann – who was 2 of 11 from long range at that point – hit his final three 3-pointers.
“I’m stupid enough to let him shoot all year long just because I’ve seen him make so many shots,” Byrd said. “One thing’s for sure – he’s just so darn cocky that he was never going to quit thinking it was going to go in.”
NOTES – It was the first ACC win for Belmont is six tries – a stretch that includes 1-point losses to Duke in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and the 2011 regular season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. … Reserve Brice Johnson had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting and nine rebounds. … It was the 400th game at the Smith Center. UNC fell to 340-60 overall and 169-15 against non-conference opponents.
BELMONT 83, No. 12 NORTH CAROLINA 80
Percentages: FG .453, FT .909.
3-Point Goals: 15-37, .405 (Mann 5-14, Windler 4-6, Laidig 2-3, Bradshaw 2-4, Chamberlain 1-3, Chowbay 1-4, Smith 0-1, Turner 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 0.
Turnovers: 16 (Chowbay 6, Bradshaw 3, Jenkins 2, Chamberlain 2, Mann 2, Lang).
Steals: 8 (Windler 3, Chamberlain 2, Jenkins 2, Mann).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .483, FT .458.
3-Point Goals: 2-7, .286 (Britt 1-1, Paige 1-3, Davis 0-1, Tokoto 0-1, McAdoo 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 0.
Blocked Shots: 1 (McAdoo).
Turnovers: 13 (Paige 5, Johnson 3, McAdoo 2, Hicks, Tokoto, Simmons).
Steals: 11 (McAdoo 3, Britt 3, Johnson 2, Tokoto, Paige, Meeks).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Les Jones, Louie Andrakakos, Alan Spainhour.