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Andy Wittry | | December 15, 2019

Carmichael Auditorium: Quick facts about North Carolina's historic arena

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Before the Dean Smith Center opened in 1986, North Carolina played its basketball games inside Carmichael Auditorium, where the Tar Heels men's basketball team went 169-20 (.894) when the auditorium was its full-time home.

North Carolina last played in Carmichael Auditorium near the start of the decade (March 16, 2010) and its second-to-last home game of the decade will be there, too.

On Sunday, No. 17 North Carolina (6-3) will host Wofford (5-4) at Carmichael Auditorium. The decision was due to a scheduling conflict as North Carolina's December commencement will take place in the Dean Smith Center. The arrangement will make for a unique on-campus venue and a trip down memory lane.

Here are five facts to know about Carmichael Auditorium, the historic games that were played there and its namesake.

The first men's basketball game won at Carmichael Auditorium

The first men's basketball game North Carolina ever won inside Carmichael Auditorium was against William & Mary on Dec. 4, 1965. The Tar Heels won 82-68.

Forty-five years later, North Carolina's last win in Carmichael Auditorium came against...William & Mary.

The score was just six points off the score from 1965 — North Carolina 80, William & Mary 72.

When the latter game tipped off in the first round of the 2010 NIT, North Carolina had a .500 record on the season at 16-16, which sounds like it should be a typo given how strong of a program there is in Chapel Hill but the Tar Heels had won the 2009 national championship and were in the midst of a rebuilding year. 

Starting with North Carolina's last win in Carmichael Auditorium, the Tar Heels are 267-83 (.762) since, having won at least 24 games each season since then.

In North Carolina's 80-72 win over William & Mary, Deon Thompson scored a team-high 20 points, John Henson (now of the Cleveland Cavaliers) was a point shy of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds, and Tyler Zeller added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.

North Carolina Athletics

The centennial anniversary of Carmichael Auditorium's namesake leading UNC in scoring

Billy Carmichael, the namesake of Carmichael Auditorium, led North Carolina in scoring exactly 100 years ago, during the 1919-20 season. He averaged 10.8 points per game and he later became North Carolina's controller and acting president.

Carmichael Auditorium was named after him.

The family connection of Carmichael Auditorium

Billy Carmichael was honored as the namesake of Carmichael Auditorium and his brother, Cartwright, was North Carolina's first-ever All-American. He was a consensus All-American in 1923 and 1924, when he and teammate Jack Cobb were the Tar Heels' only consensus First Team All-American teammates until two guys named Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins joined that exclusive club in 1983 and '84.

Billy and Cartwright Carmichael were teammates in Chapel Hill and both brothers led the team in scoring at least once.

North Carolina Athletics

A different era

When Billy Carmichael played at North Carolina, North Carolina wasn't yet North Carolina. When Carmichael led the team in scoring as a team captain in 1920, the Tar Heels went 7-9 and finished eighth in the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

In the 99 seasons since then, North Carolina has finished eighth or worse in its conference just five times, while finishing first (or tied for first) 41 times. The South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association folded in 1921 but while it was active, it also included Catholic, Davidson, George Washington, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, N.C. State, Richmond, St. Johns, Trinity College, Virginia, Virginia Tech, VMI, Washington and Lee, and William & Mary.

Imagine if, today, North Carolina didn't share a conference with Duke but rather schools that are currently in the A-10 and Big East. Because that's the conference schedule that the Tar Heels played a century ago.

North Carolina Athletics

Some incredible comebacks at Carmichael

It's not surprising for a program as old and as accomplished as North Carolina to have pulled off impressive comebacks in its history but it seems like Carmichael Auditorium was home to a lot of them, especially against ACC rivals.

Take, for example, March 2, 1974, when North Carolina climbed out of an eight-point deficit with 17 seconds to play against rival Duke. North Carolina's Bobby Jones made two free throws to cut the Blue Devils' lead to six. Duke turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass and John Kuester brought North Carolina within four points with a layup.

Duke committed another turnover on an inbounds pass, allowing North Carolina to score another basket at the rim, bringing the Tar Heels within two points with six seconds left. North Carolina fouled Duke's Pete Kramer, who missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting up Mitch Kupchak to find Walter Davis for a 25-foot bank shot as time expired, forcing overtime, where North Carolina won 96-92. Two months earlier, North Carolina beat Duke inside Cameron Indoor Stadium on a layup (off of a stolen inbounds pass, because of course) with one second left.

Then there was February 10, 1983, when No. 3 Virginia led No. 1 North Carolina by 16 points after halftime and by 10 with just over four minutes to play. Thanks to Michael Jordan's put-back basket, followed by a steal against current Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, he was able to win the game 64-63 with a dunk.

Two years later in January 1985, Maryland led North Carolina by three points inside Carmichael Auditorium with 23 seconds left and 83-percent free throw shooter Keith Gatlin at the line. Gatlin missed the front end of a one-and-one, North Carolina's Kenny Smith made a jumper, then 78-percent free throw shooter Adrian Branch missed another front end of a one-and-one, and North Carolina's Dave Popson gave the Tar Heels the lead in a 75-74 win.

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