Ranzino Smith, who earned the game's most valuable player award with his 21 points, gave the Tar Heels their first second-half lead, 83-81, by converting a clinical backdoor pass from backcourt mate Jeff Lebo in the final minute of regulation. Four free throws, two each by Seikaly and Coleman, put Syracuse back up 85-83 with 10 seconds to play. Lebo took the inbounds pass and slalomed into the forecourt, pivoting smartly out of a double team to whip a one-hopper to Chilcutt astride the foul lane. Chilcutt wheeled into the paint and, drifting to his left, squeezed off a 13-footer that bounced high off the back rim, then right down and through. Overtime.
Six turnovers in the last 2� minutes of OT—four by the Orangemen—decided the game, as did the ability of Fox, Madden and Lebo to sink five of six free throws during that stretch. Syracuse had a last chance when Chilcutt fouled Matt Roe on a rebound with six seconds left and the Orangemen down 94-91. Everyone knew Roe would try to make the first and then miss the second, in the hope that Seikaly or Coleman could steal the rebound. Roe's first swished through, and, try as he did to avoid it, he made his second.
"Now we know what weaknesses we have," said Seikaly, who was limited to three shots in the second half. Outside shooting is surely one. Only Roe shot with confidence, sinking three treys in four attempts. Said Boeheim, "We're going to see that collapsing D a lot until we prove we can shoot the ball."
Free throws are another weakness. Saturday's figures, 19 for 32, were awful, and it was just like Syracuse, which made only 65% of its foul shots last season, to connect on the one occasion that called for a clang.
If the game had been played four days earlier, it could have been billed as a joust for Owens. Would he go south to join former high school teammate Lebo, whose dad, Dave, was Owens's coach at Carlisle (Pa.) High? Or north, where brother Michael had already wowed thousands as a sophomore Syracuse running back?
On Wednesday, Owens shunned Carolina, just as the fates had before Saturday's second half. All of this thrust Boeheim into the unfamiliar role of fortunate son. His father had been an upstate New York undertaker, and Boeheim learned to assume a solemn mien in deference to the folks who came by the mortuary. Although that melancholy now seems ingrained in his personality, Boeheim was accepting Syracuse's role as a preseason consensus No. 1 with what, for him, passes for grace. "It's the year to underrate our football team and overrate our basketball team," he says. "We got beat twice by Pitt last year, and they have back more than we do. But I'm happy to be picked Number 1. It's a compliment to our program. I hope everybody's right."
With less than 1% of ESPN's schedule gone, we're already faced with some interesting questions about Syracuse and North Carolina: Can the Orange get the job done at the foul line? Can Reid win back his starting spot from the callow kid from Alabama? And can Madden or Bucknall unseat the Bahama Mama?
We know now that one question isn't worth asking: whether there beats a heart within the North Carolina program, the big, blue, ostensibly digitized and regimented IBM of college basketball. "It's just a tremendous feeling right now," said Williams after Saturday's victory. "After that heartbreaking loss last year, to beat them this year with almost all odds against us...." Of all the Tar Heels, Williams didn't have to speak of the stormy months between the two Syracuse games. But for one afternoon in basketball's birthplace, Carolina provided itself with a blissful escape. It was like going to a revival house and seeing a Dean Smith film festival.