North Carolina 59, Tulsa 55
Mar. 26, 2000
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ In a dazzling turnaround for a team that barely made the tournament, North Carolina is returning to the Final Four.
Only this time, the Tar Heels are underdogs. And, even stranger, they're being led by a freshman.
Joseph Forte, the first freshman to lead North Carolina in scoring, had 10 of his 28 points during a 14-4 second-half run that broke open a tie game and sent the Tar Heels to a 59-55 victory over Tulsa in the South Regional final Sunday.
``You can only dream about this,'' Forte said.
North Carolina (22-13) earned its record-tying 15th Final Four trip and third in the last four years. This one, though, might be the sweetest yet because the Tar Heels actually came into the tournament as long shots.
The Tar Heels stumbled into the NCAAs having lost four of six and were 7-8 since a January swoon knocked them out of the poll for the first time in a decade. Their No. 8 seed matched their lowest in 22 years of being seeded.
Tulsa (32-5) ended the greatest season in its history, having set a school record for wins and advancing its farthest in 12 NCAA appearances.
The loss was the Golden Hurricane's worst since a 41-point pounding by Duke in the second round of last year's NCAA tournament. Their previous four losses this season had been by a combined seven points, none by more than three.
Tulsa didn't go down quietly, not even with leading scorer David Shelton and emotional leader Eric Coley spending most of the game in foul trouble.
The Golden Hurricane's young, small lineup kept the game close the last five minutes of the first half, then refused to let UNC pull away despite Tulsa missing its first eight shots of the second half.
But with Shelton and Coley on the bench with foul fouls and 11:25 left, Forte led the winning rally.