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Updated: Saturday, November 20, 2004 3:18 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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Santa Clara 77, (3) North Carolina 66

OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Eight years later, Santa Clara added to its legacy as giant killers.

Travis Niesen scored a career-high 26 points as the Broncos, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the West Coast Conference, shocked third-ranked North Carolina, 77-66, in the Pete Newell Classic.

It marked the fifth time the Broncos (3-1) beat a ranked team under coach Dick Davey and the first since 1996 against No. 19 Alabama. The most notable of the upsets came in 1993, when Santa Clara, then led by Steve Nash, stunned Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 15 seed.

Last week, Santa Clara suffered a 93-59 loss to New Mexico in the NABC Classic.

"Obviously, I am excited about the victory, but you have to keep things in perspective," Davey said. "We had a chance. It might have been slim and we would have to do a lot of things right, but we knew we had a chance."

North Carolina, which shot just 37 percent (23-of-62) from the field and made 14-of-24 free throws, dropped to 83-12 in season openers. The Tar Heels lost an opener for only the sixth time since 1930.

"It's a (bad) job by me," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "This is my 17th year as a head coach, two times previously we lost the first game of the year and both times we got to the Final Four.

"Santa Clara hurt us with their defensive play. They were good defensively. We are extremely disappointed. There is no question about that. You can say ticked off."

Playing without point guard Raymond Felton, who served a one-game suspension for playing in a non-certified summer league game, the Tar Heels looked flat and lacked energy in their season opener.

"I am sure it (playing without Felton) hurt us," Williams said. "He is one of the best point guards in the country.

"We've talked a big game about being together, chemistry of our team, but we'll find out. I don't think talking does anything. You got to find out about how much these guys will stay together. I don't think we showed the toughness out there today that I would like to see when things weren't going that well."

The Tar Heels allowed Niesen, who averaged just nine points last season, to have his way inside as the Broncos pulled away in the second half. Niesen was 10-of-14 from the field.

"He's a tough, competitive rascal," Williams said. "He's the kind of kid you don't like to play against, but he's the kind of kid you would love to have on your team. To me, that's about as good a compliment you can give somebody."

North Carolina opened a 22-9 lead midway through the first half, but they went scoreless for more than five minutes. Santa Clara turned around the game with a 20-4 spurt and grabbed a 29-26 lead at intermission.

Kyle Bailey, who scored 20 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Broncos a 45-32 lead with 15:16 remaining. Santa Clara, which led by as many as 16 in the second half, converted numerous easy baskets, never allowing North Carolina to make a serious run.

Rashad McCants, who missed North Carolina's second exhibition game with a shoulder injury, scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half. Sean May added 19 for the Tar Heels.

Santa Clara held off North Carolina by shooting 53 percent (25-of-47).


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