DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A whole new Carolina cast looked nothing
like defending champs the first time out in the NCAA Tournament.
In the end, four freshmen made it turn out all right.
Murray State, a team with all of one NCAA victory in its
history, took third-seeded North Carolina down to the closing
seconds Friday night before the Tar Heels pulled out a 69-65
Underscoring how much North Carolina (23-7) has changed in a
year: Four freshmen scored the Tar Heels' final 29 points. Tyler
Hansbrough led the way with 24 overall, his 14th 20-point game -- a
Carolina freshman record.
"If he was any better looking, I'd want to kiss him after every
game," coach Roy Williams said. "I've never seen a freshman more
It wasn't secure until Marcus Ginyard -- yes, another freshman --
made two free throws with 16.5 seconds left for a 69-65 lead.
The Tar Heels play George Mason in the second round of the
Fourteenth-seeded Murray State (24-7) was trying to become the
first team in 10 years to knock out a defending champion in the
first round. The last champ to make such an early exit was UCLA,
which was seeded fourth when it lost to Princeton 43-41 in 1996.
North Carolina isn't a typical defending champion. The Tar Heels
lost their top seven scorers from the squad that beat Illinois for
the title, an unusually high turnover that left the roster stripped
of tournament experience.
"They looked scared," said senior David Noel, the only Tar
Heel with appreciable NCAA experience. "That's what you expect.
"At the same time, our freshmen stepped up big in the final 4
minutes. I kind of pulled them together and said, 'This is it, the
last 4 minutes. We haven't played well the whole game but we have
Heading into the first round, Williams fretted that his team
would have that wide-eyed look when it took the floor. He was
right. The Tar Heels trailed 31-30 at halftime and never led by
more than five in the second half.
"I feel very fortunate, to say the least," Williams said. "A
first-round game is always difficult, particularly if you've got a
team that hasn't been through it because they don't know what it's
Murray State's horrible history at tournament time made it an
unlikely candidate to stay close. The Ohio Valley champions are
1-12 in NCAA play, and haven't won a game since their 1988 upset of
North Carolina State.
More daunting, their conference has lost 17 straight games in
Trey Pearson led Murray State with 18 points, but missed a
critical 3-point attempt with 20 seconds left. Carolina got the
rebound and Ginyard was fouled, going to the line for his clinching
"It felt real good when it left my hand," said Pearson, who
was 4-of-8 from behind the arc. "When it goes up, there's a 50-50
chance it goes in. Just tough luck."
Williams' Kansas and Carolina teams now have won at least one
game in the last 17 NCAA Tournaments, matching Carolina's Dean
Smith for the record. This one was played in an arena where he
suffered one of his most crushing NCAA Tournament losses.
Williams and top-seeded Kansas was beaten by a Texas-El Paso
66-60 in the second round in 1992, when many thought the Jayhawks
could win a national title.
The four freshmen saved him from another such setback on Friday.
Green's bank shot put Carolina up 62-57 with 5:22 left, but
Murray State tied it at 65 on Darnell Hopkins' 17-foot jumper with
1:18 to go. That shot set it on course to be decided in the closing
Hansbrough's turnaround hook put Carolina ahead to stay with 43
seconds left and showed he was fearless with everything on the
"We were running a little freelance offense," Hansbrough said.
"I posted low and my teammates got the ball to me and I was able