Arizona Basketball: Cats Top 5 Games Vs. North Carolina

Apr 4, 2016; Chapel Hill,NC, USA; A general overview of the Dean E. Smith Center during a watch party for the NCAA final. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; Chapel Hill,NC, USA; A general overview of the Dean E. Smith Center during a watch party for the NCAA final. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Blue blood Tar Heels have fallen to the Cats on the big stage more than once.

Some of the most memorable moments in Arizona Basketball history have come against the Tar Heels.

College basketball names don’t get much bigger than North Carolina and Arizona has a respectable 3-4 record against Michael Jordan’s alma mater.

Here are the Top 5 games on that short list.

5. Dec. 28, 1948

North Carolina  60
Arizona                49

Arizona was matched up against the Tar Heels once in their history before Dean Smith made it to Chapel Hill and ran the four corners offense.

It was during Fred A. Enke’s 24th year as head basketball coach for the Wildcats.

Arizona finished with a respectable 17-11 record and were Border Conference champions during the 1948-49 campaign.

During that season in a non-conference game against North Carolina, the Cats were defeated by 11 in the Camelia Bowl Tournament in Lafayette, Louisiana.

4. Dec. 2, 1988
North Carolina (No.10)  79
Arizona (No. 11)                72

The Tar Heels got some payback against the Wildcats from the previous season’s Elite Eight matchup against Arizona.

The Cats held a one point lead with under five minutes left but had trouble keeping pace with the Scott Williams led Tar Heels, when Tucson folk hero Sean Elliott fouled out late in the game.

Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports /

North Carolina held Elliott in check only yielding 16 points to the 1989 Wooden Award winner, six points below his senior season average.

One of the original Gumbies, Jud Buechler, finished the game with 14 points.

3. Nov. 22, 1996
Arizona (No.19)            83
North Carolina (No. 7) 72

The Cats opened their historic 1996-97 season against North Carolina at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Mike Bibby did not look like a freshman in his first career game as a Wildcat. He finished with 22 points and shot 4-of-8 from behind the arc.

The game was tied at the break but the Cats controlled the second half, leading by as much as 17.

Michael Dickerson was the hero in this one. He continued his hot hand from the end of his sophomore campaign, leading the Cats with 31 points against the Tar Heels.

He was 7-of-10 from three-point land. His seven bombs from downtown tied a school record. That record now belongs to Salim Stoudamire and Gabe York. They each hit nine treys in a game during their careers in Tucson.

2. March 29, 1997
Arizona (No. 4 Seed)                66
North Carolina (No. 1 Seed)  58

With their combined shooting efforts of 32 percent, both teams could have used their bricks to expand Old Main. It may not have been textbook basketball but there were beautiful memories in this one.

Apr 28, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks point guard Mike Bibby (20) warms up before game one in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Miami Heat of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Mike Bibby’s three-point barrage in the second half gave Arizona a late 15-point cushion. Bibby shot 6-of-11 from behind the arc and finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Miles Simon also made his impression felt, despite having seven turnovers. He led the team with 24 points and added five rebounds and five assists.

College basketball icon Dean Smith retired following the 1996-97 season, making Lute Olson the last man to defeat Smith during his legendary career.

Coach Olson was 3-1 against Coach Smith while at Arizona.

Two nights later, the Cats would defeat Kentucky for their first National Title in school history.

1. March 27, 1988
Arizona (No. 1 Seed)               70
North Carolina (No. 2 Seed)  52

For good reason, lots of Arizona fans would probably consider the 1997 victory over North Carolina as the greatest win over the Tar Heels in school history, but the game that put Arizona Basketball in the consciousness of the college basketball world was in 1988.

May 27, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reacts during the first half against the Houston Rockets in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

In the nearly 30 years since this game, the Wildcats have ridden a momentum of success that rivals the great programs of college basketball during that era.

The Cats trailed by two at the break but thanks to Tom Tolbert’s exploits in the second half, the Tar Heels were left shell-shocked.

Tolbert was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half scoring 18 points.

The Cats trailed 42-40 with about 14 minutes left when Tolbert hit one of the most memorable shots in school history.

Tolbert pump faked Scott Williams out of his shoes and put up a no look dipsy-doo shot that went in. Tolbert was fouled on the play and the Cats outscored the Tar Heels by 20 from that point on.

Sean Elliott added 24 points and Steve Kerr had 14 points of his own.

Next: Cats Top 5 Games Vs. Duke

The victory gave the Cats their first trip to the Final Four in school history. Bear Down!