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March 2, 2010CHAPEL HILL - Even though most of the season has been a horror story for North Carolina, its seniors got to feel a bit of a fairy-tale ending in their final home game.
Not only did the Tar Heels keep Roy Williams' streak of senior-night perfection alive, they also earned the program's 2,000th victory by beating Miami 69-62.
"I think it lined up pretty well," senior forward Deon Thompson said. "This day was pretty perfect."
North Carolina (16-14, 5-10 in the ACC), which won back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 30, is just the second program in history to reach 2,000 wins, behind Kentucky, which accomplished the feat earlier this season.
"Today was an emotional day," said Williams, who has never lost a senior-night game in his 22 years as a head coach. "It wasn't just about basketball."
While Will Graves led the Tar Heels with 16 points, Thompson and fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard combined for 26 points, including some crucial ones down the stretch.
So many things have gone wrong for them in their final seasons that it was a relief for them to get to celebrate their final home game with a win-and a historic one at that.
"I think it's just an amazing opportunity for everyone on this team to be a part of that," Ginyard said. "I don't think it could have happened any better for me tonight."
Ginyard recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while also dishing out five assists.
He was seemingly everywhere for the Tar Heels, providing fans with one last home-court glimpse of the player Ginyard was before injuries eroded his abilities and his confidence.
"I introduced him tonight in the locker room to the freshmen and said, 'That was the Marcus we've known, that you have not been able to see,'" Williams said. I think that was really important."
For the first time all season, Carolina led an ACC game by double figures in the first half, jumping out to an early lead even with senior walk-ons in the starting lineup.
But nothing this season has come easily to the Tar Heels, and this win was no different.
The early lead disappeared, forcing the Heels to rebuild it before and after the halftime intermission. Carolina then led by as many as 18 points in the second half before allowing the Hurricanes (18-11, 4-11) to fight back to within a point.
But when the Tar Heels needed clutch scoring, the seniors were ready to respond.
When Miami cut Carolina's lead to one with 3 ? minutes to go, Thompson answered by bouncing in a basket 30 seconds later.
When Carolina was threatened again with half a minute to go, Ginyard made a pair of timely free throws.
Not only did they give the Heels a 66-60 lead, they got him that double-double that had evaded him for five years.
"I put pressure on the underclassmen to take care of the old guys, but today the old guys took care of themselves," Williams said.
It wasn't long after those free throws that Williams sent in substitutes for Thompson and Ginyard, both of whom left the court to standing ovations.
In a season when there haven't been a lot of those to go around for the Tar Heels, finishing the last home game that way was a big deal for the seniors.
"It's been pretty painful," Thompson said. "But definitely winning on senior night, me and Marcus and the other seniors holding our jerseys up it means a lot."