After 67 years, Quakers face Tar Heels again


Courtesy of Guilford Athletics

Junior guard Zachary Houston, who had 14 points and six rebounds, drives past University of North Carolina’s Joel Berry.

“Ten feet,” says Gene Hackman’s character Norman Dale in the 1986 film “Hoosiers.” “I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.”

If you ask any student of the game of basketball, you will undoubtedly hear something akin to these words. No matter where you play, the dimensions of the court and the height of the basket remain unchanged.

However, like Butler Fieldhouse in the film, now known as Hinkle Fieldhouse, some venues have a special sort of flair. When your sneakers hit the hardwood and you look up to the rafters, you imagine the same awe-inspiring musical arrangement in your head as the one that accompanied Norman Dale’s small-town Indiana team.

There is an informal list of revered college basketball arenas around the country.

Some, like the Palestra and Allen Fieldhouse, tout a deep connection to the heart and spirit of the game. Others, like The Pit and the Carrier Dome, are architectural marvels that exemplify human ingenuity.

Then there is the Dean E. Smith Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the location of the Nov. 6 exhibition matchup between the Guilford Quakers and the Tar Heels.

The Dean Dome’s spot on the list of grand spectator sites is, arguably, much lower than that of other arenas. Still, it draws in players and fans alike.

“Nobody would want to play in the Dean Dome if UNC hadn’t been a good team for a long time,” said first-year cross country runner Austin Bryla.

There are 21,750 seats facing the court and a plethora of banners adorning the ceiling. Some feature names like Rosenbluth and Jordan. Others are dedicated to conference and national titles.

In a way, Guilford is not unlike UNC. A look at the uniquely roofed Ragan-Brown Field House shows the names of legendary players and a banner celebrating Guilford’s 1973 NAIA title.

Each school has a long and storied basketball tradition dating back to the beginning of the 1900s.

The Quakers played their first basketball game in 1905. Over the course of their first season, they won two of their three matchups.

The Tar Heels played their first game five years later. Their record for the 1910-1911 season was 7-4.

Fast-forward to Jan. 31, 1912. Guilford played its first game against UNC at Bynum Gymnasium in Chapel Hill.

They beat the Tar Heels 35-20.

Over a year later, the Quakers would win again, this time at home, 44-21.

In their third annual matchup on Feb. 19, 1914, UNC finally beat Guilford 38-13. The Tar Heels would go on to win the next 19 games against the Quakers, by as little as a point or as much as 57 points.

Games between the two schools in Chapel Hill shifted from Bynum Gymnasium to the Tin Can and then Woollen Gymnasium as the UNC basketball program grew. On Dec. 4, 1948, the Quakers sparred with the Tar Heels in a 52-32 loss.

Sixty-seven years would pass before both schools would meet again on the court.

Entering the 2015-2016 season, UNC was selected No. 1 in the nation in the Associated Press poll and No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Guilford, in comparison, was selected fifth in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference preseason poll.

Four seconds after tipoff at the Dean Dome on Nov. 6, sophomore guard Jared Rodgers was called for a shooting foul. When sophomore guard Theo Pinson approached the line for UNC, many expected the top-ranked Tar Heels to take an early lead.

But Pinson missed both shots. On the other side of the court, 28 seconds later, senior forward/center Will Freeman made a jump shot.

The Quakers took a 2-0 lead and held it for 59 seconds.

UNC then seized it when junior guard Nate Britt sunk a 3-point shot with 18:29 remaining in the first half. Guilford never led again.

For the first 10 minutes of the game, the Quakers largely remained within 10 points of the Tar Heels. Afterward, UNC had success in transition, evidenced by two fast break dunks senior forward Brice Johnson made within a minute of each other in the second half.

The final score of the exhibition was 99-49, bringing Guilford’s all-time series record with UNC to 2-21.

While the Quakers were outmatched, there were lessons that they could take away from the Dean Dome. With 12 seconds left in the game, Guilford returned from a timeout and thwarted UNC’s chance to extend the score to triple digits.

“It’s different when you compete against that caliber of athlete than what you normally do, but the one thing we wanted to do was compete in every possession,” said head coach Tom Palombo in a postgame press conference. “That’s what we talked about in our last time out. We just wanted to compete to finish it off, compete, try and get one more stop and that’s what we did.”