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In the Zone: Al Wood (1981 NCAA semifinal)

Before Michael Jordan and after Walter Davis it was a gentleman by the name Al Wood who was in charge for lighting it up for the world's best known basketball college squad - University of North Carolina Tar Hills!

A member of 1980 US Olympic squad spent his NBA career roaming around, changing as many as four teams during just six seasons. His best NBA seasons came while he was the member of the Seattle Supersonics, between 1983 and 1986, with a career year in 1984-85 when he averaged 15.0ppg to go along with the 3.5rpg and 3.0apg.

Even though Wood didn't enjoy great success as a pro he is best remembered for his 1981 NCAA semifinal game heroics, leading his Tar Heels to a victory over Virginia Cavaliers led by AP Player of the Year - 7'4'' sophomore Ralph Sampson who would later star for the Houston Rockets in the NBA.

That spring night in Philadelphia's Spectrum, playing alongside future NBA stars James Worthy and Sam Perkins, who relentlessly covered Sampson over the entire course of the game, 6'6'' UNC senior displayed the full array of his basketball skills while scoring incredible 39 points in the game.

I’ve been asked about that Virginia game at least a thousand times. I could do no wrong that night. I just got in a zone, and my teammates kept looking for me. I played loose like I was in a pickup game. Everything was going in,
and then the rim started looking like a big ol’ tub. - Al Wood, 2016 (source: Salisbury Post)

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Already at halftime, exploring the gaps in Virginia's zone, 1981 second team All-American member led all scorers with 14 points scored. In the second half Wood continued his unstoppable scoring outburst. Over the last 13 minutes of the game Wood scored additional 25 and with the total of 39 points he broke Jerry West's record of 38 points for his alma mater West Virginia, which was set back in 1959.

The offensive performance he displayed against the University of Virginia is one of the finest games overall games I seen a college player enjoy. - Dean Smith, UNC Tar Heels head coach 1961-1997

Wood was also the top scorer of 1981 NCAA Championship Tournament with 109 points combined.

Wood's video highlights from that game today stands not just as an exhibit of his basketball brilliance, but also as a reminder on something what has completely vanished from today's basketball - mid-range game.

Happy Birthday Al Wood!

Marjan Crnogaj is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.

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