- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Two weeks ago, after North Carolina had opened a season with two losses for the first time since 1919, Coach Dean Smith said, "It's early, thank heaven." Last week Smith might well have said, "Thank heaven for Michael Jordan." After North Carolina had blown an eight-point lead in the final 4:33 at home against Tulane, Jordan grabbed a loose ball and made a 20-foot shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. With 1:48 to go in the third OT, Jordan got the last three of his 21 points on a layup and a foul shot to secure a 70-68 victory for the Tar Heels. Four days later, against LSU at New Jersey's Meadowlands, the Heels rallied from a 21-9 halftime deficit to win 47-43. Following those first 20 minutes, the Tar Heels heard something few, if any, defending national champs have heard so early in a season: lots of boos. North Carolina's Buzz Peterson scored all of his 18 points in the second half by making nine of 11 field-goal attempts, and Jordan sealed the outcome with three free throws in the final 37 seconds. "We've never had a more embarrassing half in my 21 years here," Smith said of the opening half. "We deserved the boos."
North Carolina State and Virginia both won with ease. The Wolfpack, using its new wide-open offense, routed Western Carolina 103-66 and North Carolina A&T 100-70. In the first game, Dereck Whittenburg hit six of seven three-point shots to finish with a career-high 28 points. In a 51-34 defeat of James Madison, Virginia forced the Dukes into their worst shooting performance (26.8% from the field) and held them to their lowest point total ever. The game was the first for James Madison in its new arena in Harrisonburg, Va., which also is Cavalier Ralph Sampson's hometown. However, Sampson had only nine points and six rebounds before kith and kin. Next time out, Virginia beat winless VMI 86-41. Last season the Keydets had the worst record—1-25—of the 273 teams in Division I.
Georgetown's Pat Ewing played 26 minutes in a 91-57 defeat of Morgan State. That was enough time for Ewing to get 19 points and 11 rebounds and to block five shots.
A pair of 31-point performances by Guard Greg Jones led West Virginia past Youngstown State 105-79 and Marshall 95-82. After the Thundering Herd had pulled to within 76-72, Jones scored 12 of the Mountaineers' next 14 points as they pulled away.
St. John's won 72-45 at Columbia and, with Jeff Allen sinking two foul shots in the final second, beat Providence 61-60. The Friars led the Redmen by 11 points early in the second half but missed four one-and-ones in the last three minutes.
Led by Guard Erich Santifer and Forward Leo Rautins, Syracuse won four times. Santifer sank all his shots—10 from the field and two from the foul line—in a 110-69 rout of Cornell. After a 73-65 victory at St. Bonaventure, the Orangemen won their own Carrier Classic by defeating Alcorn State 110-77 and Princeton 67-54. Rautins, the tournament MVP, tossed in a total of 32 points in the two contests.
Nevada-Las Vegas had only a 24-20 lead over Duquesne at halftime—but then Larry Anderson got hot, scoring 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, as the Rebels won 67-54.
Purdue got lots of penetration from guards Steve Reid and Ricky Hall in a 69-63 upset at Louisville. Reid (24 points) and Hall (12) repeatedly drove around or through the Cardinals, who focused their defense on 6'10" Russell Cross (15). The loss was only the 17th at home for Louisville since Denny Crum became coach in 1971. Reid, a 5'10" sophomore transfer from Kansas State, had a total of 37 points in two other Boilermaker victories, 79-69 at Boston University and 50-39 at home against Fresno State.