UNC returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time in nearly 12 years; Davis plans to make annual visits

By R.L. Bynum

Hubert Davis remembers riding the team bus to Madison Square Garden early in his freshman season before Carolina played in the Preseason NIT.

Coach Dean Smith called him up to the front of the bus.

“I sat with Coach Smith, and he was pointing out all the buildings to me because I couldn’t believe how big the city was,” said Davis, whose team lost the first game at the Garden to Missouri 91–81 in 1988 before beating Indiana 106–92 in the consolation game.

He has so many memories of games at one of the most storied arenas in sports, including four seasons playing for coaches Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy while with the New York Knicks.

“It’s a special place for me,” said Davis, shown in the top photo eagerly boarding the plane Thursday bound for New York. “I haven’t been back to the Garden since I retired from the NBA in 2004. So, to go back there again, the place where it all started for me personally as a professional, is really exciting to me.”

While playing with Patrick Ewing, he was part of their team that lost Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals against Kenny Smith and the Houston Rockets.

“I just have a lot of memories of playing with Doc Rivers and Patrick Ewing and John Starks and Charles Oakley and Charles Smith and some really good teams and unbelievable coaches that I was able to be around every day,” Davis said.

When UNC (7–4) faces No. 23 Ohio State (7–2) at 3 p.m. in the CBS Sports Classic (CBS), it will be the Tar Heels’ first game at the Garden in nearly 12 years. But, for several reasons, Davis plans to schedule games there every season.

Smith scheduled games either there or in the Meadowlands every season when Davis was a player. Like Davis, Smith always wanted a presence in the New York area.

“The four years that I was here at North Carolina, we always had three or four guys from New York on our team. They always had a nice chip on their shoulder,” Davis said. “I like those type of guys. So I’d like to have a presence recruiting up in New York. And so those are reasons that every year, as long as I’m head coach, the Tar Heels will be up in New York.”

He starts one of those types of players in junior guard RJ Davis from White Plains, N.Y. He played with Brian Reese (from The Bronx), Derrick Phelps (Pleasantville, N.Y.) and King Rice (from Binghamton).

North Carolina lost to Dayton 79–68 in the 2010 NIT finals and hasn’t played at the Garden since beating Rutgers 78–55 on Dec. 28, 2010.

Since then, the facility underwent $1 billion in renovations from 2011 to 2013.

The Tar Heels have a 29–11 record there, first playing in the 1968 ECAC Holiday Festival. That NCAA finalist team was No. 2-ranked when it beat No. 8 Villanova 69–61, lost to St. John’s 72–70 and beat Princeton 103–76 on successive nights.

Carolina’s biggest win in that arena was an 84–66 victory over Georgia Tech for the 1971 NIT title. That was when only league champions could go to the NCAA tournament and the NIT was much more prestigious.

UNC was 6–10 in the previous Madison Square Garden from 1936 to 1966, including losing to Oklahoma A&E (now Oklahoma State) 43–40 in the 1946 NCAA championship game.

UNC at current Garden

(Record 29–11)
Dec. 27, 1968 — Villanova W 69–61; ECAC Holiday Festival
Dec. 28, 1968 — St. John’s L 72–70; ECAC Holiday Festival
Dec. 30, 1968 — Princeton W 103–76; ECAC Holiday Festival
March 14, 1970 — Manhattan L 95–90; NIT
March 20, 1971 — Massachusetts W 90–49; NIT
March 22, 1971 — Providence W 86–79; NIT
March 25, 1971 — Duke W 73–67; NIT
March 27, 1971 — Georgia Tech W 84–66; NIT final
Feb. 19, 1972 — Notre Dame W 99–74
Feb. 17, 1973 — Florida State W 91–79
March 17, 1973 — Oral Roberts W 82–65; NIT
March 20, 1973 — Massachusetts W 73–63; NIT
March 24, 1973 — Notre Dame L 78–71; NIT
March 25, 1973 — Alabama W 88–69; NIT
March 16, 1974 — Purdue L 82–71; NIT
Dec. 4, 1975 — Seton Hall W 75–63
Feb. 11, 1978 — Rutgers W 74–57
Feb. 14, 1980 — Rutgers W (OT) 73–70
Dec. 19, 1981 — Rutgers W 59–36
Dec. 27, 1983 — Iona W 74–61; ECAC Holiday Festival
Dec. 29, 1983 — St. John’s W 64–51; ECAC Holiday Festival
Jan. 9, 1986 — Fordham W 92–68
Nov. 23, 1988 — Missouri L 91–81; Preseason NIT
Nov. 25, 1988 — Indiana W 106–92; Preseason NIT
Jan. 11, 1992 — Notre Dame L 88–76
Nov. 24, 1993 — Massachusetts L (OT) 91–86; Preseason NIT
Nov. 26, 1993 — Minnesota W 90–76; Preseason NIT
Nov. 25, 1998 — Purdue W 54–47; Preseason NIT
Nov. 27, 1998 — Stanford W 57–49; Preseason NIT Final
Nov. 27, 2002 — Kansas W 67–56; Preseason NIT
Nov. 29, 2002 — Stanford W 74–57;Preseason NIT Final
Dec. 28, 2002 — Iona L 65–56 ECAC; Holiday Festival
Dec. 29, 2002 — St. John’s W 63–59; ECAC Holiday Festival
Nov. 22, 2006 — Gonzaga L 82–74; Preseason NIT
Nov. 24, 2006 — Tennessee W 101–87; Preseason NIT
Nov. 19, 2009 — Ohio State W 77–73; Coaches vs. Cancer
Nov. 20, 2009 — Syracuse L 87–71; Coaches vs. Cancer final
March 30, 2010 — Rhode Island W (OT) 68–67; NIT
April 1, 2010 — Dayton L 79–68; NIT Final
Dec. 28, 2010 — Rutgers W 78–55

UNC statistics

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo via @UNC_Basketball


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