RALEIGH -- There are few absolutes in sports, certainties that we can bank on like taxes and the tides.
In college basketball, since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the sport’s constant has become a No. 1 seed beating a No. 16. Entering No. 1 Virginia’s game against No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Friday night, No. 16 seeds held a record of 0-119. Late Friday night, Coastal Carolina went down swinging before it became victim No. 120.
The Chanticleers hail from the Myrtle Beach area and have a name that traces back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. They led Virginia by as many as 10 points with 4:25 remaining in the first half and showed the flashes of pluck to write their own piece of history.
Reality caught up to Coastal on Friday night after had forged a tie at 47 with just under nine minutes remaining. Virginia locked down its defense, reserve Evan Nolte went on a scoring spree and the Cavaliers ended up cruising in the final minutes to a 70-59 victory. (UVA led by as many as 16 in the final two minutes, taking any juice out of the potentially historic storyline.)
The final score doesn’t indicate that Coastal Carolina at least teased history. Badou Diagne led the Chanticleers with 14 points, and they hung in the game thanks to 9-for-19 three-point shooting. But in the end, it was just a tease.
Still, they can claim one of the 10 best performances in NCAA tournament history by a No. 16 seed. There have been a handful of more serious scares over the years, with the closest No. 16 potential upset coming in 1990 when a Popeye Jones-led Murray State team took top-seeded Michigan to overtime. There was also Princeton against Georgetown (1989), Western Carolina against Purdue (1996) and Albany against UConn (2006). All close for different periods of time, but none ultimately captured the elusive prize of becoming the first No. 16 to beat a No. 1.
Coastal’s biggest regret will be leaving Nolte so open. He didn’t score in the first half, but he drilled two three-pointers -- one at 7:53 and the other at 7:11 -- from deep in the left corner to help UVA pull away in the second. He finished with eight points and fed into a banner day for UVA’s bench, as Anthony Gill led all scorers with 17 points.
UVA brought the most vocal contingent of any fan base to Raleigh, an impressive feat considering Duke played here earlier in the day. Ultimately, the Cavaliers fans rallied around Virgnia’s defense, which held Coastal Carolina to 32-percent shooting in the second half.
And with the victory, the safest streak in college sports continued. Next year, four more lambs will be brought to slaughter, hoping to avoid a 0-124 record.
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