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THF Countdown #6: 1995

Season: 1994-95
Record: 28-6 overall, 12-4 ACC(1st place tie)
ACC Tournament: Lost in finals to Wake Forest
NCAA Tournament: Lost to Arkansas in the Final Four

Roster: Octavus Barnes, Dante Calabria, Ed Geth, Pearce Landry, Clyde Lynn, Jeff McInnis, Charles McNairy, David Neal, Jerry Stackhouse, Patrick Sullivan, Rasheed Wallace, Donald Williams, Shammond Williams, Serge Zwikker.

Source: UNC Media Guide

I think this team is a favorite among many Heels fans because we really enjoyed watching Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace play together.  The 1995 UNC team played with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and navigated one of the toughest ACC seasons on record with UNC sharing first place with Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia at 12-4 in the conference.  Along with UNC, Wake and MD were both in the top ten during the latter half of the season. Of the six games UNC lost during this season, only one, the loss at NC State in January was to a unranked opponent.  UNC split season series with their co-champions and then lost to Wake in the ACC Championship.  That loss was disappointing mainly because UNC played well enough to win but Randolph Childress decided that it was time to reveal that he was actually half machine capable of shredding opposing defenses with deadly accuracy from three point range.  Unfortunately for the Deacs, he did not receive the upgrade for the NCAA Tournament. There was also the matter of Rasheed Wallace's sprained ankle halfway through that game which cost UNC at a crucial moment.  Despite the loss it was one of the more entertaining ACC Tournaments I have witnessed.

The 1995 season was full of such entertaining moments for the Heels:

  • UNC went 2OT with Duke winning 102-100 in Cameron in a game often remember for Jason Capel's 30 foot shot to tie the game.  Granted that is all on Serge Zwikker who missed two free throws that could have put the game away.  This game also included The Stackhouse Dunk.  That never gets old.
  • In the ACC Tournament, Dean Smith made a comment to one of the Clemson players implying that said Clemson player was a thug.  Rick Barnes got his panties in a wad and decided to get in Dean's face endearing himself to the ABC crowd especially NC State fans who would love to have Barnes on the confrontation alone.  I find a coach like Barnes who has one Final Four and a whole slew of inconsistent season results getting in the face of Dean Smith a little like a chiuaua yapping the face of a St. Benard.  Dean later said he was probably wrong to say what he said to another player but calling a player on a Barnes coached team is nothing more than speaking truth in the same way you say, "Hey, pit bulls can be kind of mean."
  • UNC set a record for points in one game by beating VMI 129-89.  VMI plays an up-tempo pace and doing so against this version of the Tar Heel is tantamount to playing chicken with an 18 wheeler.
  • Counting the ACC games UNC won 11 games over ranked opponents in 1994-95.
  • Stackhouse recorded another monster dunk humiliating an opposing player when the Heels knocked off Virginia Tech in Greensboro.

The crowning moment of the season was the regional final versus Kentucky.  For whatever reason certain coaches own other coaches.  Dean Smith had issues beating Bobby Knight.  In this case Dean Smith owned Rick Pitino.  The Rick Pitino UK teams had a penchant of running through the NCAA Tournament like a steamroller demolishing every one in their path and then coming up on the wrong team with unfortunate results for the title starved folks in Lexington.  In 1992 it was Duke, 1993 Michigan took them out and for the 1995 season the harbinger of tournament elimination for UK was UNC.  Boy, was it a testy affair and had it been played today Rasheed Wallace would probably have been ejected for his part in an altercation that occurred in the first half.  At any rate the Heels pretty much dominated Kentucky, especially on defense holding a Wildcat team that had averaged 97 ppg through three NCAA matchups to 61 points.

The win over UK kept the UNC streak of Final Fours in odd years during the 1990s alive.  UNC went to Seattle with a fairly even shot at winning.  Arkansas was the defending champion and had squeak by repeatedly in the tournament leading their coach Nolan Richardson to quip "The fat lady ain't singing yet but she is humming like hell."  UCLA needed a miracle to win in the 2nd round and Oklahoma State was a #4 seed that had actually beaten Wake Forest en route.

The loss to Arkansas was odd.  Unlike the other Final Four games UNC had lost in recent memory, the Heels were very much in this game from the start and had a seven point lead with a few seconds left in the first half.  What followed was a bizarre sequence of events that alter the game.  UNC ended up throwing the ball the length of the court in an effort to get a fast break basket but the pass was a tad long and was lost out of bounds under the UNC goal.  Arkansas with barely enough time to get the ball upcourt inbounded it to that tub of a human being Dwight Stewart who just chucked it from about 60 feet or so and made the shot at the buzzer.  I recall thinking: We could have been up by seven at half but now it is only four plus they made some kind of miracle shot to do it.  We are definitely toast.

Turns out I was right and have you ever wondered where Shammond Williams learned how to shoot like crap in the Final Four?  The answer is he learned it by watching Dante Calabria do it in this game.  Though I should be noted that Calabria was only part of the issue. The fact Arkansas did a great job limiting the shots for Stackhouse and Wallace which hurt a great deal.  The two stars only shot the ball 13 times combined which is bad news in a Final Four game. Donald Williams on the other hand got 19 shot attempts by himself hitting seven of them.  Calabria had 10 shots and made one meaning Arkansas was more than willing to allow UNC to shot perimeter shots as long as they shutdown Wallace and Stackhouse.  The plan worked and the Heels bowed out.

Of course I do not recall being overly upset with this loss mainly because UNC was seemingly on a good roll in the 1990s.  Final Four appearances were coming regularly and the national title was only two years past.  It was a great stretch run for Dean Smith and awesome time to be a Tar Heel fan.

Countdown So Far

7. 1984
8. 1987
9. 1997
10. 1991
11. 2007
12. 1986
13. 1994
14. 1983
15. 1989
16. 1988
17. 1985
18. 2006
19. 2001
20. 1992
21. 1996
22. 1999
23. 2000
24. 2004
25. 1990
26. 2003
27. 2002