CHAPEL HILL — A college basketball team from South Carolina came to Chapel Hill and beat North Carolina on Wednesday.
History, yes. Just not that history.
Wofford, in its fourth trip to the Smith Center, did what upstate neighbor Clemson has yet to do in 58 tries against the Tar Heels by stunning the defending national champions on their own home floor.
Junior Fletcher Magee scored 27 points and No. 5 UNC shot just 36 percent from the floor while turning the ball over 14 times, as the Terriers held on for a 79-75 victory that made headlines and ended the Tar Heels’ 23-game home winning streak.
It was a result that had coach Roy Williams boiling over with anger at his team, especially since it came directly on the heels of a gritty, come-from-behind effort at Tennessee just three days earlier.
“I didn’t think we came out with the passion we needed to have,” Williams said. “We got a big win on Sunday. We’re fat and happy and (thought) that things are going to be so easy for us.
“We better by God be ready to play and not act like we’re prima donnas, we’ve got North Carolina (on the front of the jersey), we can walk out there and the other team is going to fold. That team outworked us.”
It was evident right from the start when Wofford big man Cameron Jackson twice got to the basket and scored easily on Garrison Brooks while on the other end of the floor, the sleepwalking Tar Heels turned the ball over three times on their first five possessions.
UNC (10-2) got a lift from newly activated graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, who was back in action after missing the first 11 games with a knee injury. The Tar Heels outscored Wofford 17-4 during the six minutes the former Pittsburgh star was on the floor in the first half.
But the Terriers (8-4) were 14 points better over the other 14 minutes on the way to a 34-33 lead.
“We were flat,” junior guard Kenny Williams said. “I don’t know another way to put it. We came out lackluster, lackadaisical and they came out ready to fight. They brought the fight to us and we didn’t bring it back until our backs were against the wall. At that point, it was too late.”
With Magee bombing away from the outside with his unorthodox fall-away stroke and virtually everyone for UNC having trouble putting the ball in the basket even from point-blank range, Wofford expanded its one-point advantage into a shocking 14-point bulge at 57-43 with 13:27 remaining.
Only then did the Tar Heels finally begin to show a sense of urgency.
Joel Berry scored 23 points and Luke Maye finally began to heat up after a horrendous 1-of-11 start from the floor to twice bring their team back to within one. Maye finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
But as Kenny Williams implied, UNC never made it all the way back.
The Tar Heel rally was done in by a combination of cold shooting — Johnson, Williams, Berry and Maye all missed 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the final four minutes — and a lack of game awareness.
First, UNC stopped attacking the basket and started settling for jump shots, even after getting Wofford into the double bonus with more than eight minutes remaining. Then in the final minute with the Terriers desperately trying to hold on for their landmark upset, the Tar Heels opted not to foul even as their coach was screaming from the bench to do so.
Although they got the stop they needed, the sequence ended up working against UNC when Maye missed a potential tying 3-pointer with 23 seconds to go. Because the Tar Heels had been called for only three fouls to that point, they had to commit four more before sending Wofford to the free-throw line.
By then, enough time had run off the clock to end any reasonable chance of a miracle finish.
“Bad movement, bad defense, bad coaching,” Roy Williams said. “It was a disgusting thing for me the entire game. My own self and the team.
“We called a timeout and I said, ‘Guys, we have only (three) fouls, so we want to trap and we’ve got to foul. We can’t waste all the clock.’ And we wasted 15 seconds, and I’m standing over there jumping up and down like an idiot.”
While that was going on, coach Mike Young and his Terriers were jumping up and down for joy — something no team from the state of South Carolina had ever done in the 31-year history of the Smith Center.
“Mountaintop. I mean, mountaintop,” Young, dripping wet from getting thrown into the shower by his players, said afterward. “I grew up in Virginia. This was my team. Coach (Dean) Smith and see all those banners up there. I think back to (John) Kuester and (Walter) Davis and (Phil) Ford and all those guys.
“To bring a team in here and not only compete and fight and do some really good things, but win? Holy cow, that’s a mouthful. It’s a mountaintop experience. I’m awfully proud our boys.”