Commodore Classics: 1987 MBB vs. No. 1 North Carolina
March 10, 2014
There are very few venues that have proven to be more difficult for No. 1-ranked teams to play in than Memorial Gymnasium. Time and time again, top-ranked teams have come into Memorial and been knocked from their perch.
On December 5, 1987, it was North Carolina's turn. At the time, Vanderbilt had defeated three No. 1-ranked teams over the course of program history, but not one had come against a school not named Kentucky.
That changed when the top-ranked Tar Heels were dealt a 78-76 loss to the Commodores, who were coached by C.M. Newton.
A crowd of 15,626 was in attendance to watch Will Perdue score 23 points and grab 10 rebounds in a dominating performance in the post. Charles Mayes scored 16 points and Barry Goheen scored 13. Mayes hit three three-pointers in the final seven minutes to help secure the win.
"The magic of this gym is the crowd," Newton told the media after the game. "This is what it's all about. When the students get cracking like that, they can lift your players and have an effect on the other team. It can be a very tough place for a visiting team to play."
North Carolina was coached by Dean Smith, who finished his Hall of Fame career 0-3 at Memorial Gym. The Tar Heels were led by J.R. Reid, Scott Williams and Rick Fox. Former Vanderbilt assistants Jeff Lebo and King Rice also played for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels entered Memorial Gym after defeating previous No. 1 Syracuse, who North Carolina assumed the top spot from.
Vanderbilt jumped out to a 13-4 lead, but UNC was up by six with 7:31 to play. Vanderbilt would go back in front and were ahead by three, 78-75, with three seconds left when the Commodores had their inbounds pass stolen.
North Carolina guard Jeff Lebo stole the pass and was fouled on a three-point attempt. However the rules then called for only two foul shots. He made one of the two shots with one second left to finish the game with 21 points.
"I don't agree with the rule," Newton said. "I think a foul on a three-point shot should be a three-shot foul, but the rule's the rule and that's the way we're going to play it."
As the final horn sounded, Vanderbilt's fans rushed onto the court to celebrate with the players.
"It's a big, big win for our program, no question," Newton said. "This is what it is all about right here - pride." "I thought the level of play was outstanding. The intensity was terrific. We had to fight for our lives."
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