Youth on display for UNC, MSU


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There is no shortage of history in Carmichael Arena, full-time home of North Carolina women's basketball, current NCAA tournament site and a building that will celebrate its 50th birthday next year.

But more of the past is history for some than for others.

Forget the days when the men's teams under Dean Smith made the place a fortress. That is increasingly history less remembered than read and retold. Consider that when Charlotte Smith's jumper dropped through the net in Richmond, Va., on April 3, 1994, and gave North Carolina its only national championship, Michigan State's Aerial Powers was not yet three months old. Teammates Tori Jankosa and Branndais Agee wouldn't arrive for months.

It would be almost a year until North Carolina's Diamond DeShields, Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga were born.

Youth will be served Tuesday night in this grand old basketball barn with a place in the Sweet 16 on the line. It certainly featured prominently Sunday. A heralded freshman class barely survived in No. 4 seed North Carolina's 60-58 win against No. 13 UT Martin, shortly after Powers paced fifth-seeded Michigan State to a 91-61 win against No. 12 seed Hampton in her first NCAA tournament game.

"It's fun to watch," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said of a national youth movement that includes those here and Baylor's Nina Davis, who put on a show in her first-round game Saturday. "We need some excitement in our game, and the youth is a positive. Hopefully people get hooked on watching an Aerial or a Tori or a Branndais or a Nina. Or Diamond -- obviously people love her. She's a special, special player, clearly.

"It might bring fans back for four straight years, which is never a bad thing -- and create some new ones."

It was a strange day in Chapel Hill. There was the bizarre, an extended delay at the start of the second half of the second game when the scoreboard over the center of the court was lowered almost to the floor while repairs were made. There was the comical, North Carolina's Xylina McDaniel catching a tipped ball on her backside and hitting a shot from the same position in the middle of a season-saving rally. And there was the serious, a campus-wide alert for an armed suspect that led to Carmichael being locked down even as play continued.

Against that backdrop, the peculiarity of the upset that UT Martin appeared poised to spring seemed almost preordained.

One of the nation's highest scoring teams in the regular season, UT Martin came out with a much more deliberate approach in Sunday's game. Instead of pressing, as is his usual wont, coach Kevin McMillan ran a triangle-and-two defense designed not so much to stop the Tar Heels as frustrate them. McMillan denied the strategy, born of getting run off the floor by athletically superior teams in three previous NCAA tournament appearances, had much to do with exploiting North Carolina's youthful impatience, but it was it couldn't have hurt.

When UT Martin's Jasmine Newsome, who along with teammate Heather Butler entered the game as two of the four active leading scorers in all of NCAA Division I basketball, converted a Shoni Schimmel-esque three-point play with three seconds left in the first half, the Tar Heels looked lost, unsure what was happening and unable to counter.

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