Tar Heels Conquer Trojans

The freshman was as impressive as any North Carolina's storied program has ever had. The senior was the key to victory as he's been his whole career with the Tar Heels.

The backcourt of Joseph Forte and Ed Cota led No. 4 North Carolina to an 82-65 victory over Southern California on Monday night in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.

"Ed's done that for four years and that's why he'll be our all-time assist leader," North Carolina coach Bill Guthridge said of Cota, who had 15 points and 10 assists and was the key to the Tar Heels taking control in the second half.

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  • "He's done that many, many times and that's why I wouldn't trade him for any other point guard in the country."

    Forte put himself on the untouchable list after his first college game, scoring 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range.

    "I was just thrilled to be starting because not many freshmen get to do that at North Carolina," the 6-foot-4 graduate of DeMatha High School said. "To play like that tops it all."

    North Carolina will face Georgetown, which beat Memphis 71-55, in Tuesday night's semifinals.

    Forte, wearing the uniform number that sounds like his name, combined with Cota on some fastbreaks that made it look like they had been together longer than just the preseason.

    "I wasn't looking at it as taking over," said Cota who was 6-for-7 from the field. "I was looking at what the defense gave me and snuck through for some baskets inside."

    He snuck through enough that he made sure that every time the Trojans (1-1) started any kind of run in the second half the momentum went right back to the Tar Heels.

    North Carolina closed the first half with a 12-2 run to take a 43-33 lead. The Trojans hung tough and were within 54-52 with 11:23 left on a turnaround by Sam Clancy, who finished with 23 points. That's when Cota and Forte went to work.

    Cota hit a 3-pointer, scored on a drive, fed Forte for a dunk on the break and hit a jumper in the lane before Forte's 3-pointer capped a 12-2 run that gave North Carolina a 65-54 lead with 7:15 to play.

    A 3-pointer by Brandon Granville got the Trojans within 68-61 with 5:46 left but Cota and Forte went back at it.

    Cota hit a jumper and then a layup off a steal by Forte. Forte scored on a flip shot off the glass. Cota made two free throws then fed Forte for another layup that capped a 10-0 run and made it 78-61 with 2:42 to play.

    "That's why he's an all-America," Southern California coach Henry Bibby said of Cota. "He's one of the best guards in the country. He was quiet until that time and it just shows how much depth they have on that basketball team. When he wanted to take over the game he took over the game."

    Max Owens and Brendan Haywood each had 15 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 65 percent from the field (34-for-52).

    Glanville finished with 15 points for the Trojans, while Brian Scalbrine had 13, all but two in the first half.

    "We some crucial mistakes turning the ball over," Bibby said. "We have to come away pleased with rebounding as well as we did with the fourth best team in the country but we have to cut down the mistakes."

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