CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—Virginia Tech topped North Carolina for the second time, after previously upsetting Duke. Maybe the Hokies should push for an extension of Tobacco Road.
The Atlantic Coast Conference newcomers are making a habit of upsetting the league’s traditional powers, with Zabian Dowdell scoring a career-high 33 points Tuesday night in an 81-80 overtime victory over No. 4 North Carolina which sealed an improbable season sweep of the Tar Heels.
“Something special brewing around the program,” Dowdell said.
Dowdell and Deron Washington combined to stop Ty Lawson cold in the final seconds of overtime and preserve the victory for the Hokies (18-7, 8-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who gave their NCAA tournament hopes a significant boost with another road victory against a Top-5 team.
“Probably the understatement of the day is (that) I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said.
Markus Sailes gave North Carolina one last chance when he missed two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. Lawson rushed down the court and took a quick shot which was tied up by Dowdell. Lawson got the rebound and shot again from the lane, but Washington swatted it away.
“They came and doubled, so that messed everything up,” Lawson said. “I couldn’t find anybody open, so I tried to get a shot off, but they blocked it in the lane. They were clogging the lane. … I think they knew what we were going to do.”
Wayne Ellington grabbed the ball and the buzzer sounded just before he released and hit a 3-pointer.
“The basketball gods were on our side today,” Dowdell said.
Virginia Tech beat the Tar Heels 94-88 last month in a game the Hokies led by 23 before North Carolina’s furious rally came up short and its 18-game winning streak was halted.
“We knew it was going to be tough because they were ready to get revenge for the last time we beat them,” Washington said.
This time, Dowdell bounced back from his worst game of the season—a five-point outing against Virginia—with the best of his career. He surpassed his career high of 30 set last month against Miami, and bested the 30 points Ohio State’s Ron Lewis scored as the most points the Tar Heels have allowed to one player this season.
“It’s great to come here and have a good game, but it’s even better to leave with a win,” Dowdell said.
Washington had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Hokies, who made their first visit to Chapel Hill since 1975 and won here for the first time since 1966 — their second impressive overtime victory this season in central North Carolina’s hotbed of big-time college basketball, joining last month’s 69-67 upset of then-No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Tyler Hansbrough had 22 points to lead North Carolina (22-4, 8-3), while Ellington had 14 and Lawson finished with 13.
“I did absolutely the worst job I’ve ever done in my entire life,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “It was just one awful, awful job of coaching by me—that’s the bottom line of the whole thing.”
North Carolina fell to 14-1 at the Dean Smith Center, where they had been dominant. The Tar Heels entered averaging nearly 92 points at home and winning by an average of 30 points with only one game decided by fewer than 10 points, a 98-89 win over Ohio State in November. But this time, neither team led by more than eight points.
Virginia Tech could have taken the lead late in regulation when Washington was fouled hard by Reyshawn Terry with 36.4 seconds remaining, briefly leaving the game. The Hokies brought Nigel Munson off the bench to shoot the free throws, and he missed his first shot but swished his second to tie it 73-73.
Lawson then missed a 3-pointer from the key with about 1 second left, the Hokies got the rebound and their full-court heave sailed into the crowd as time expired.
“I felt very comfortable at the end of regulation that we would get a much better shot than we did,” Williams said.