Top Tar Heel Moments of 2014

With the year coming to a close, Inside Carolina has compiled the Top 10 Tar Heel moments of 2014.

Court Storm

Feb. 20

There's always a special energy level at the Smith Center for UNC-Duke games. But this one was different.

That's because, for the first time in the history of the rivalry, the game had been postponed after a snowstorm buried the Triangle. Students that had waited hours in the snow on the initial game day had to wait an additional eight days for the rescheduled date. The result was a Smith Center bursting with anticipation.

The game itself was indeed thrilling, with UNC rallying from an 11-point second half deficit. And it completed an unprecedented feat for the Tar Heels, becoming the first team in college basketball history to beat the No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 teams from the preseason poll in the same season.

When the final buzzer sounded, the celebration began at center court.

Paige's Game Winner

Feb. 26

Marcus Paige earned a reputation during the 2013-14 season for second-half heroics. He made countless big shots and big plays, leading UNC to wins over highly ranked teams and ACC foes alike. Against NC State, in a game that seemed lost for the Tar Heels several times, he scored 31 points after halftime.

His final points came on UNC's final possession. With 7.7 seconds remaining in overtime and UNC trailing 84-83, Paige took the inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the court and worked his way through the NC State defense for the game-winning layup.

It was UNC's 10th win in a row and solidified the sophomore's place on the All-ACC First Team.

Shocker In Gainesville

May 31

The Diamond Heels have been such regulars at the College World Series that it's become a surprise when they don't reach Omaha. And that's what happened in 2014.

The young team struggled to generate runs and managed a 15-15 ACC record. When the NCAA Tournament selections were announced, UNC was assigned to the Gainesville regional, home of No. 2 overall seed Florida.

After both UNC and Florida lost their openers, the two teams met for a Saturday afternoon elimination game. The Tar Heels endured a three-hour rain delay and a gruesome injury to star shortstop Michael Russell to post five runs in the third inning and never looked back, holding on for a 5-2 upset.

Scott Saves The Day

Sept. 6

North Carolina fans spent much of the 2013 season bemoaning mid-day kickoff times, and craving the charged atmosphere that comes with a night game at Kenan Stadium. They got their wish for the second game of the season against San Diego State with an 8 p.m. start and did their part, providing a worthy atmosphere.

But the team struggled early and fell behind by two touchdowns in the third quarter. Even after UNC scored on four straight possessions, it found itself ahead by only four points as the Aztecs marched down the field to the UNC three-yard line with 20 seconds remaining.

On 1st-and-goal, senior safety Tim Scott was playing tight coverage and eying the quarterback. When the intended pass to the left corner of the end zone headed his way, he slipped in front of the receiver for the game-saving interception.

Welcome Back, Coach

Oct. 3

Sylvia Hatchell paused to wipe away tears and compose herself before emerging from the Smith Center tunnel to a standing ovation from the Late Night crowd.

The leukemia diagnosis that forced her to miss the 2013-14 season proved to be just a temporary interruption of her Hall-of-Fame career, as she made her grand return -- cancer-free -- at UNC's Late Night event.

"I'm 100 percent, I'm back, I'm ready to go," she announced to the crowd. "I told the ACC office I might get a technical every game I'm going to be so fired up."

Her team spent the next two months rising to a Top 10 ranking by beating four Top 25 teams.

Winning Drive

Oct. 18

Marquise Williams closed out a career performance with a winning drive against Georgia Tech under the lights.

The quarterback directed a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the final three minutes of the game that culminated with T.J. Logan’s two-yard touchdown run for a 48-43 win and an end to UNC's four-game losing streak.

Williams set the school record for completions in a game (38) and broke the school record for completions in a half (23). He also completed 14 consecutive attempts in the second half, one shy of the school record. His 47 attempts equal the third-most in a game in UNC history and his 390 passing yards are the eighth-most in single-game history.

Top-Rated Commitment

Nov. 13

Jalen Dalton became the highest-ranked member of UNC's 2015 football recruiting class when he announced his commitment during a press conference at West Forsyth High School.

The four-star defensive end had long been a top target of the Tar Heel staff and a frequent visitor to Chapel Hill, despite offers from such schools as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State. UNC was the perceived leader for some time, but predictions began to shift in the final weeks of his recruitment as Virginia Tech made a late push. Yet Dalton made up his mind after returning from his official visit to Blacksburg: "I just felt in my heart [UNC] was where I wanted to be.”

For a team in need of defensive help, no commitment was bigger in 2014.

Ringing The Bell

Nov. 20

North Carolina spent much of the 2014 season unable to produce a complete performance. The defense routinely struggled, the offense was inconsistent and the result was a combination of come-from-behind wins and crushing defeats. But on one night - in Durham - it all came together.

In front of a national, primetime audience on a Thursday night, the Tar Heels routed the Blue Devils. The defense produced three turnovers, the offense accumulated nearly 600 yards, and the scoreboard showed a stunning 38-7 tally late in the third quarter.

The Tar Heel win ended Duke's Coastal title run and reclaimed the Victory Bell, which could be heard ringing long after the game ended.

Surprise Announcement

Dec. 22

When Mike Hughes sat down to begin his press conference at New Bern High School in front of friends and media members, the onlookers expected him to pick NC State. Maybe it was the former teammates that played in Raleigh, or the NCSU armbands he wore during games, or the fact that he witnessed first-hand the one-sided contest between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack a month prior.

But unbeknownst to the day's audience and fans at large, Hughes and his family were hiding Carolina Blue under their black attire. He made the surprise announcement and the Tar Heel clothing was revealed. "I just had a special connection with the (UNC) coaches,” he explained.

While he's projected to play cornerback at UNC, Hughes quarterbacked New Bern to an undefeated record and the NCHSAA 4A State Championship.

Marvin's Graduation

Dec. 14

While one of his former UNC teammates, Rashad McCants, made national headlines with accusations about his experiences at UNC, Marvin Williams was hard at work completing his degree.

Williams was the second overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, after just one (national championship) season with the Tar Heels, and made a promise to his parents and Roy Williams that he would earn his degree. He returned each summer to Chapel Hill to take classes toward that goal. Nearly a decade later, he was awarded his degree, donning the Carolina Blue cap and gown at UNC's December Commencement.

As for McCants, he ignored multiple requests to speak with Kenneth Wainstein's investigative team and his claims were never substantiated. All of his UNC teammates, including Williams, made a collective statement refuting the claims. Wainstein concluded: "There is no evidence to support his allegations."

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