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Smith Center streak on the line

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Former North Carolina All-American Eric Montross doesn’t really remember what games began or ended his teams’ school record-setting 25-game win streak in the Smith Center from 1992 to 1994.

But he does recall the attitude that made the mark possible.

“The thing that I remember about playing here [at the Smith Center] was that there was a certain level of confidence that we had, even in warm-ups,’’ said Montross, now an analyst for the Tar Heel Sports Network.

“You see some teams glancing over, trying to measure up the opponent, see who you’re going to be guarding, what they look like. I don’t remember us doing that. After playing for Coach [Dean] Smith for a while, you know you’re prepared enough to win. There’s a difference between a cocky vs. confident attitude. It’s a fine line, but we were always confident in our preparation and our abilities.”

For the record, the streak Montross was a part of began on March 4, 1992, with a victory over Georgia Tech, and was ended on Feb. 12, 1994 with a loss to the Yellow Jackets.

This season’s Tar Heels have a chance to match the record in the 26-year-old building when they play Elon on Thursday. Then they could beat it if they can top Monmouth on Sunday.

Considering how long the 25-game mark has stood, and the UNC teams that couldn’t top it (Tyler Hansbrough’s Tar Heels got stopped at 21 straight thanks to Boston College in 2009, for instance), it’s impressive what this group could accomplish, considering its close calls during the 24-game run:

  • On Dec. 4, 2010, forward Tyler Zeller scored 12 of the Tar Heels’ final 16 points, including the go-ahead free throws, to edge Kentucky 75-73.

  • Last January, point guard Kendall Marshall buried two free throws with 2.8 seconds left, then Dexter Strickland stole Erick Green’s inbounds pass as time expired to top Virginia Tech 64-62.

  • Last February, UNC scored the fewest points under coach Roy Williams, yet won its 20th game of the season, 48-46 over Boston College, when Reggie Jackson’s 3-point attempt over Tar Heels forward John Henson rimmed out with about five seconds left.

  • Earlier this season, UNC forward Harrison Barnes scored 14 points in the second half to rally his team over Wisconsin, 60-57.

If UNC reaches the new record of 26, it will be interesting to watch how far the team could stretch its streak. After Monmouth, the Tar Heels begin ACC play at home versus Boston College. After that, their league home games include Miami, N.C. State and Georgia Tech before Duke comes to town on Feb. 8.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

SMITH CENTER WINNING STREAKS

North Carolina will set a school record for consecutive wins at the Smith Center if it beats Elon on Thursday and Monmouth on Sunday. Where this team stands:

Wins Streak Started Ended

25 3/4/92 vs. Georgia Tech 2/12/94 by Georgia Tech (89-96)

24 3/2/10 vs. Miami ongoing

21 2/15/04 vs. Maryland 11/29/05 by Illinois (64-68)

21 2/21/07 vs. NC State 1/4/09 by Boston College (78-85)

19 1/15/97 vs. NC State 2/21/98 by NC State (72-86)

Source: UNC