Thursday , Dec , 27 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Michael Jordan vs. Len Bias in College


Michael Jordan vs. Len Bias in CollegeAs games go, they don’t get much more classic than this.  Nearly twenty-four years ago, The Greatest of All Time faced off against the Best to Never Get There in a a match-up that saw the North Carolina Tar Heels take down the Maryland Terps 74-62 in their own building.  Kenny Smith, Sam Perkins and Brad Daugherty were all suited up, but the Pope could have been starting at small forward and this contest still would have been a tale of two talents: Michael Jordan and Len Bias. 

Check out the clip for assorted highlights from the evening, and read on below the video for a report from a young Michael Wilbon, then a staff writer for the Washington Post.  Oh, and this is one you’re going to want to watch right until the end, folks.  You might never have been able to place the highlight in context before, but Mike caps the night with one of the more recognisable plays in NCAA basketball history.

UNC Beats Maryland; By Michael Wilbon Washington Post Staff Writer

Those who argue that two great players can’t make a team No. 1 in the nation obviously haven’t seen enough of North Carolina all-Americans Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins.

Jordan had the presence of three players at times last night, shooting, stealing and rebounding in surreal sequences. His 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Perkins’ 26 points and 12 rebounds, enabled Carolina to remain undefeated with a 74-62 victory over Maryland in packed Cole Field House.

The Tar Heels, all-Americas or not, held no big edge until the final minute. The Terrapins, for the most part, played like a team ranked fifth in the country. Sophomore forward Len Bias, with a career-high 24 points, and Adrian Branch, with 19, at times matched the splendor of Perkins and Jordan.

But it was Jordan who scored five straight points to turn a 57-56 lead into a 62-56 margin with five minutes to play. Jordan made the first of two free throws, then hustled incredibly to save his miss on the second shot. After scoring inside for a 60-56 lead, he followed Herman Veal’s miss with a twisting, lean-in jumper for a six-point lead.

After Maryland (10-2, 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) had pulled to 63-62 on a bank shot by Ben Coleman with 2:03 remaining, Perkins made two free throws for 65-52. Bias missed a jumper, Jordan rebounded and the game, essentially, was over.

Maryland held a 43-40 lead with 14 minutes to play after a jumper by Branch, who took over the game after intermission. The Terrapins had a chance to move ahead by five when Coleman made a steal, but he tried to dribble downcourt and shoot off the run and missed badly.

Perkins dunked at the other end for 43-42. Another big sequence came with eight minutes left, when Branch forced a shot. He missed, and Perkins came down and scored on a three-point play for a 55-52 lead for the Tar Heels (11-0, 2-0). "I thought I was going to draw a foul, but I shouldn’t have made the move, anyway," Branch said.

"When we had that (three-point) lead," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said, "we should have slowed it down and worked for a real good shot. But we made a couple of hurry-up moves that cost us."

Or as freshman guard Keith Gatlin said more succinctly, "We did some silly things at a crucial point in the game."

As well as Perkins and Jordan were rebounding, every Maryland mistake at either end was magnified. The Tar Heels outrebounded Maryland by seven, and scored on nine of 19 offensive rebounds. Maryland, unofficially, scored on only two of 12 offensive rebounds.

Even North Carolina Coach Dean Smith was forced to use a rare superlative. "Perkins and Jordan were great," Smith said.

It seemed Jordan and Perkins were there for every important basket and rebound. "They did what the great players do," Driesell said.

Jeff Adkins, who shared time with Veal and Bias trying to guard Jordan, had talked Wednesday afternoon about how Jordan beats teams with second effort more than anything else.

"You know he’s going to the offensive boards," Adkins said last night. "You can block out if you want, and half the time, he still gets the ball." Jordan and Perkins each got seven offensive rebounds.

Of the often-unaggressive Perkins, who hasn’t played especially well recently against Maryland, Branch said, "I’ve never seen Perkins play as hard."

Also determining the outcome was UNC’s defenses — man-to-man in the first half, zones in the second — that kept the Terrapins shooting from outside.

Center Coleman scored only eight points, and made just three of 10 shots. "When he gets eight points and Perkins gets 26, there’s a big void," Driesell said. "I don’t know what the problem was, but he didn’t have one of his better games."

Nine of Bias’ 11 baskets came from outside, as did at least half of Branch’s eight field goals. "We’re usually an inside team and this is the first game we’ve played predominantly from the outside," Branch said. "It was fine for a while, but it hurt eventually. When you get into a jump-shooting pattern with a team that’s going inside, the jump shooters lose nine out of 10 times."

Both teams played fairly well defensively, especially in the second half when the Tar Heels shot 49 percent and Maryland 46 percent.

Driesell, despite slapping Smith’s hand at the end of the game instead of shaking it, seemed to have calmed considerably 15 minutes after Jordan had thrown down a "rock-the-baby" dunk — one for the ages — to end the contest.

"It was a good, hard-fought game," Driesell said. "I’m looking forward to playing them again (Feb. 19 in Chapel Hill). If we can get some better play out of a couple of people and make some adjustments, we’ll be right up there. I don’t like losing to North Carolina any time, especially on our home court. But we played the No. 1 team pretty well for 39 minutes."