No. 4 UNC Puts Down Purdue

The senior got the record, the freshman got the MVP award and North Carolina finally won the Maui Invitational.

The backcourt of senior Ed Cota and freshman Joseph Forte had its third straight impressive outing, leading the fourth-ranked Tar Heels over No. 22 Purdue 90-75 Wednesday night in the championship game of the eight-team tournament.

Cota had seven assists to become the school's career leader and Forte had 21 points, 16 in the second half, and was voted tournament MVP.

The two took turns coming up with big plays as the Tar Heels (3-0) erased a 39-34 halftime deficit and took control midway through the second half.

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  • "There are times you just have to pick it up and get things going," Cota said. "Once we fell behind we just decided to pick things up."

    North Carolina won the Maui Invitational for the first time in three championship game appearances, losing to Missouri in 1989 and Villanova in 1995.

    Forte had 24 points in his college debut against Southern California the most ever scored by a Tar Heel in his first game and 17 in the semifinal win over Georgetown.

    "I'm just glad to be starting," he said. "I'm taking things inch by inch."

    Cota finished with 15 points and his sixth assist made him North Carolina's career leader with 769, one more than Kenny Smith had from 1983-87.

    "It's a great accomplishment but I couldn't have done it without all my teammates over the years," he said.

    The win ws the third in as many years for the Tar Heels over the Boilermakers (2-1) in preseason tournaments. They beat them in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout two years ago and in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT last year.

    "The smartest thing we can do is not play them next year," Purdue coach Gene Keady said. "I'm sick of losing to them."

    Purdue started strong in taking the five-point halftime lead, but Forte and Cota were too much in the second half.

    Forte hit three jumpers, one a 3-pointer, as the Tar Heels started the second half with a 12-6 run that gave them their first lead of the game, 46-45 with 17:12 to play.

    Jaraan Cornell's jumper pulled Purdue to 52-50 with 15:01 left before Cota took off. He hit a 3-pointer and fed Brendan Haywood for a layup that started a 13-2 run, giving North Carolina a 65-52 lead with 9:56 to play.

    After Purdue closed to 67-60, Forte hit a 3-pointer and Cota followed with a floater in the lane. When Max Owens scored on a layup with 5:19 left, the Tar Heels had a 74-60 lead.

    "Forte did a great job and as I brag after every game, Ed Cota is tremendous," North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said.

    Owens had 14 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 57 percent (35-for-61), and Brian Bersticker had 12.

    Greg McQuay had 17 points to lead all five Purdue starters in double figures. Cornell had 14, Mike Robinson and Brian Cardinal 12 each, and Carson Cunningham 11.

    "We didn't get Greg the ball enough," Keady said. "They ran their offense better and out-executed us."

    Purdue beat No. 6 Florida in the semifinals.

    "We played 100 great minutes and 20 when we broke down," Cunningham said. "You have to tip your cap to Carolina. They played awesone."

    McQuay had 12 rebounds and Robinson had 11 as the Boilermakers outrebounded North Carolina 43-32.

    The win was North Carolina's eighth straight over Purdue following losses in the first two meetings between the schools.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed