Chapel Hill, N.C. – Belmont University men’s basketball added the latest chapter to its proud tradition, defeating six-time National Champion No. 12/11 North Carolina, 83-80, Sunday afternoon.
Fresh off Thursday night’s stirring and emotional victory over Indiana State, Belmont came out strong. An opening three-pointer from junior Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) and back-to-back three-pointers from senior Drew Windler (South Milwaukee, Wisc.) gave Belmont a 9-8 lead at the first TV timeout.
The lead swung back and forth before another Windler basket and five points from freshman Caleb Chowbay (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.) pushed Belmont to an 18-15 lead with 11:01 left in the first half.
But severe foul trouble quickly accumulated, as the Tar Heels worked their way into the bonus before the midway point of the half.
Undeterred, Coach Byrd went deep into his bench, with all 12 players who suited up seeing action in short order.
Amidst some inconsistent free throw shooting from the hosts, a three-pointer from sophomore Craig Bradshaw (Ridgetop, Tenn.) and a basket from senior J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) increased the lead to five, 23-18, with 7:53 left in the half.
Kennedy Meeks capped a 6-0 Tar Heel run to give UNC a 24-23 lead before a pullup jumper from Chowbay and a three-pointer from Mann put Belmont back on top 30-28 with 5:13 left in the first half.
With Bruin reserves aiding foul trouble for several main rotation players, Belmont never backed down. A highlight reel sprint and score from junior Chad Lang (Marietta, Ga.) and two timely free throws from senior Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) pushed the Belmont lead to 36-31.
After the Tar Heels trimmed to four, Windler sank a deep three-pointer to close the first half scoring and send Belmont to halftime leading 41-34.
Belmont shot 48 percent (13-for-27) from the field in the opening 20 minutes – including 7-for-21 from three-point distance. The Bruins also battled well on the backboards, trailing just 19-17 at the break.
North Carolina took 28 first half free throws, making nine.
Windler led Belmont with 11 first half points.
Bradshaw would sink one free throw to open second half scoring before North Carolina closed to within four on three occasions.
That is when the tremendous bench contributions continued. Sophomore Jeff Laidig (Mishawaka, Ind.) made consecutive three-pointers to push the Bruin lead to 11, 55-44, with 15:11 left.
North Carolina would again work its way into the bonus early in the half, riding the strong play of James Michael McAdoo.
Belmont maintained a 60-51 lead with 12:30 remaining, before the Bruins endured their lone drought of the game. A six-minute cold spell, coupled with lively play from McAdoo, Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, catapulted North Carolina to a 14-0 run and a 65-60 lead with 6:56 left.
Belmont would battle on, twice fighting within two points on scores from Windler and Chamberlain before a runout dunk from Johnson and a floating bank shot from Paige pushed the Tar Heels to a 73-65 edge with 3:46 left.
For the Bruins, all of the remarkable work in the opening 30 minutes had seemingly evaporated. As North Carolina tip rebounds accumulated and Dean Dome cheers grew louder, the Tar Heel faithful likely wrote off Belmont.
But this team had played too well and fought too hard to go away quietly. With the urging of Coach Byrd and an engaged Bruin support section, Belmont embarked upon a final courageous push.
Two free throws from Windler and a clutch baseline three-pointer from Bradshaw trimmed the margin to 75-70 with 2:58 left.
But one J.P. Tokoto free throw and an offensive rebound basket from McAdoo pushed the North Carolina lead back to eight with 2:37 remaining.
That’s when J.J. Mann decided to seize the moment. After two free throws and an exchange of defensive stops, Mann sank a deep wing three-pointer to get the Bruins within 78-75 with 1:02 left.
Paige would reply with two free throws with 59 seconds left before Mann buried his second straight three-pointer in short order to make the score 80-78 with 54 seconds left.
Following a Bruin timeout, Belmont extended pressure defense and appeared to force a North Carolina turnover. As an errant hit-ahead pass towards Paige floated towards the Tar Heel bench, the left-hander contorted his body and attempted to save the ball inbounds.
Officials ruled that Paige saved the ball off of Jenkins’ foot to preserve North Carolina possession.
After a video review, the Tar Heels maintained possession with 45 seconds left.
Belmont elected to play a possession of defense, scrambling all over the floor. As Paige drove late in the shot clock, Chamberlain tipped the ball away and Jenkins gathered underneath the UNC basket.
A jump ball was called and Belmont was awarded possession on the arrow with 19 seconds left.
Coach Byrd called a designed play without timeout, as those in attendance and around the college basketball world inched to the edge of their seats.
Belmont went quickly, with Chamberlain jogging the ball into the frontcourt and passing back to a trailing Mann. The senior would elevate from 26 feet and bury a third consecutive three-pointer in a 48 second span to lift Belmont to an 81-80 lead with 14 seconds left.
North Carolina would race the ball into the frontcourt, and find Tokoto at the mid post. After juggling the ball momentarily, Tokoto turned and lifted for a 12-foot turnaround jumper.
The shot rimmed off towards Windler at the free throw line extended, who wisely lofted the ball downcourt to run time off before the Tar Heels could commit a foul.
Chowbay would sprint downcourt, gather, and lay it in with 0.2 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.
As the horn sounded, one witnessed a mix of pure jubiliation and complete astonishment.
Belmont had closed the game on a 13-2 run over the final 2:37, with Mann’s heroics taking the day.
All told, Belmont shot 45 percent (24-for-53) from the field – including 15-for-37 from three-point distance. The Bruins were also 20-for-22 from the free throw line.
Mann scored a career-high 28 points, adding nine rebounds and three assists. Windler continued his fine play with 16 points.
As is the case with the Bruins, it was a total team effort.
McAdoo led North Carolina (2-1) with a career-high 27 points.
Belmont (3-1) returns to action Wednesday, Nov. 20 against Lipscomb. Tip-off is set for 7:00pm CT from the Curb Event Center. The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network, with live video streaming available via the OVC Digital Network. In-game updates will be provided via Twitter @BelmontMBB.
NOTES: This marks Belmont’s second victory over a nationally-ranked opponent; The Bruins defeated No. 23rd Missouri Dec. 30th, 2003 … Belmont has defeated Butler, Cincinnati, Alabama, Stanford and North Carolina in recent years … North Carolina entered riding a 66-game home court win streak against non-conference opponents dating back to Nov. 29th, 2005 … The Tar Heels had also won 82 straight home games against unranked teams outside of the ACC dating back to Feb. 20th, 2002 … It was just North Carolina’s 15th non-conference loss in the history of the Dean E. Smith Center, which opened in 1986 … The only other home loss suffered by North Carolina under Roy Williams was to Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.