New Orleans Move over Joe Paterno. Penn State's basketball program wants a share of the spotlight.
Penn State made basketball news Sunday with one of the biggest surprises of the NCAA Tournament, an 82-74 victory over second-seeded North Carolina.
"This is the best," Titus Ivory yelled as he and the rest of the team danced at midcourt.
The victory over a North Carolina team that advanced to the Final Four last year sent the seventh-seeded Nittany Lions to the round of 16 for the first time since 1955.
Ivory and Joe Crispin each scored 21 points for Penn State (21-11). Gyasi Cline-Heard added 19 points.
"I'm definitely looking forward to my high school reunion," said Ivory, who is from Charlotte, N. C., and had once hoped to play for the Tar Heels. "I can go home with my head held high."
North Carolina (26-7) outshot the Lions 47 percent to 44 percent and outrebounded them 44-33. But Penn State had 18 steals and only 11 turnovers compared to the Tar Heels' five steals and 22 turnovers.
"We wanted to put a lot of pressure on their outside shooters because they knew they could really hurt us," Cline-Heard said. "Then we just hoped for the best in the lane."
It's the first time this season North Carolina has lost when outshooting an opponent.
"It was a frustrating game," tearful North Carolina coach Matt Doherty said. "They had 28 points off turnovers and that hurt. I don't know if I'll ever watch the tape. You can't turn the ball over 22 times and expect to win the game."
Julius Peppers led North Carolina with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Brendan Haywood had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Jason Capel and Kris Lang each had 12 points.
The Tar Heels staggered at the end of a season that once looked so promising. They were ranked No. 1 and had an 18-game winning steak when they lost 75-65 to Clemson, the worst team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, on Feb. 18. That sent North Carolina into a tailspin that saw the team head into the NCAAs with four losses in its last eight games.
While the Tar Heels have been racking up 20-win seasons (20 in 31 years), trips to the NCAA tournament (27 straight) and national titles (3), Penn State has been a basketball nonentity. The Nittany Lions have no conference championships, no All-Americans, and only three NCAA tournament appearances in the past 35 years.
The last time Penn State and North Carolina played, Doherty was playing for Carolina.
At the start it looked like another blowout for Carolina, which advanced to the second round with a 70-48 victory over Princeton.
The Tar Heels took a 19-8 lead seven minutes into the game and owned the area under the baskets. Penn State didn't get an offensive rebound for the first 14 1/2 minutes of the game.
"Before the game we knew we had an advantage inside," Haywood said. "We wanted to go to it. Our inside game was very effective at times."
But the Nittany Lions had nine steals and only three turnovers in the first half to offset Carolina's 25-10 rebounding margin. Penn State also hit four 3-pointers and was only down by a point 40-39 at the break.
Penn State opened the second half with a 16-6 run and led 55-46 with 13:11 remaining.
Two minutes into the half, Cline-Heard and Ivory were both sent to the bench with three fouls. Joe and Jon Crispin made up for their absence. Joe Crispin scored seven of the 16 point run, Jon added two steals and a basket.
Over the first eight minutes of the second half, Carolina shot 25 percent from the field but took advantage of the Nittany Lions' foul trouble, making the most of their trips to the line. The Tar Heels were 6-of-8 from the line during a 16-7 run that tied it at 62 with 7:18 remaining.
"I really expected us to win the game," Joe Crispin said. "I totally expected it. We felt we could wear them down. It's a great win, but we want to keep going."
Penn State, which beat Providence 69-59 in the first round, will play 11th-seeded Temple on Friday night. The Nittany Lions beat Temple 66-60 this season.