The North Carolina Tar Heels won the fourth national championship in school history with a 75-70 win over Illinois in St. Louis Monday night. It was a battle of runs in the first half, as Carolina jumped out to a 40-27 lead after the first 20 minutes. The Illini scored the first basket, which was followed by a 9-0 run by UNC. Illinois responded with ten straight points to take a 12-9.
Then it was the Tar Heels to roll. They scored seven in a row to regain the lead and push their advantage to 16-12. Illinois took the lead back with a 5-0 streak to make it 17-16. The Tar Heels took control by closing out the half with a 24-10 run.
Early in the second half, North Carolina seemed poised to win with a blowout. They took a 37-24 advantage when Raymond Felton nailed a three pointer with 18:04 to go. But Illinois wasn’t quite ready to call it a game. The Illini edged their way back, tying it at 65-65 thanks to two Dee Brown free throws with 5:34. Illinois tied the game for the last time with 2:40 to go on a Luther Head Three pointer. Freshman Marvin Williams’ tip in with 1:27 remaining put the Tar Heels on top for good, but there was still one piece of drama remaining in this game.
With the chance to tie it or take the lead with a final shot, Illinois suffered a crucial breakdown. Luther Head had the ball stolen from him by Felton, who was fouled and made one of two free throws and their lead was 73-70. Head got a chance to redeem himself six seconds later but missed a three pointer.
Three pointers did the Illini in, hitting 12-of-40 from behind the arc. In fact, they had more missed three pointers (28) than made field goals (27).
There was one other reason the Illini couldn’t get their first title in school history—Sean May. He was 10-of-11 from the field with 26 points and ten rebounds. That matched the scoring total his father, Scott May, had when he led Indiana to the 1976 national championship. Also like dad, Sean May was named the tournaments Most Outstanding Player.
The victory marked Roy Williams first title in four attempts in the national championship game. The Tar Heels finished the season 33-4, while the Illini wrapped up at 37-2. [Photo by Bill Greenblatt, UPI]