Texas slips past Tar Heels, 78-75

No. 3 Longhorns survive North Carolina rally to get to 3rd straight Sweet 16

Ncaa Regional Atlanta

March 21, 2004|By Chris Dufresne | Chris Dufresne,LOS ANGELES TIMES

DENVER - It used to be North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 every year by sending schools such as Texas home.

Things aren't what they used to be.

Texas held off a fast-and-furious North Carolina, even getting a clutch free throw in the final seconds by a freshman from Raleigh, N.C., to defeat the Tar Heels, 78-75, in a second-round Atlanta Regional game last night at the Pepsi Center.

North Carolina rallied from second-half deficits of 13 and 10 points to make it a game in the end.

With eight seconds left, Texas freshman P.J. Tucker, who grew up about 15 minutes from Chapel Hill, N.C., but ultimately chose Texas over North Carolina, made one of two free throws to put the Longhorns up by three.

With no timeouts, the Tar Heels had a final chance to tie the game, but Rashad McCants' last-second shot did not draw iron.

With the victory, Texas (25-7) advances to the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive season. North Carolina returns home to pick up the pieces.

North Carolina, which shot 38 percent, didn't have a second-half field goal until Jawad Williams hit a jumper from the free-throw line at 17:04. The Tar Heels missed 10 of their first 12 shots in the half.

The Longhorns, meanwhile, used their size and depth to get North Carolina's only real post man, Sean May, into foul trouble.

May picked up his third foul with 16:01 left, and Texas quickly took advantage, extending its five-point halftime lead to 57-44.

North Carolina fought back, though, and Raymond Felton's three-pointer with 11 seconds left cut the Texas lead to two before Tucker's free throw and McCants' last-second miss secured Texas' passage to Atlanta.

"We found a way to finish the game off," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.

Guard Royal Ivey led Texas with 17 points, while Brandon Mouton added 12.

First-year Tar Heels coach Roy Williams concludes another year without winning a title, taking that "best-coach-never-to-have-won" moniker into another offseason.

Realistically, this wasn't the year for Williams, who left Kansas after 15 fantastic-but-title-less years to take over a relative mess at North Carolina.

The Tar Heels ran Matt Doherty off after North Carolina missed the NCAA tournament two consecutive years - unforgivable in Chapel Hill.

Williams admittedly had a tough time adjusting to his players - and his players to him.

"I'm not an easy guy to play for," Williams said. "These guys did a great job."

That the Tar Heels came within a few points of returning to the Sweet 16 this year could almost be seen as a moral victory, if there were such things at North Carolina.

The Tar Heels finished 19-11, an upgrade on last season's record and definitely something to build on.

"This season was bumpy, but at the same time I enjoyed it," said Felton, a sophomore.

McCants, a sophomore guard, had a strong game in defeat, scoring 27 points.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

NORTH CAROLINA - Williams 5-11 7-7 17, McCants 11-23 0-0 27, May 2-10 7-10 11, Felton 4-10 0-0 11, Manuel 1-4 0-0 2, Scott 1-4 0-0 3, Terry 0-0 2-2 2, Holley 0-0 0-0 0, Noel 1-3 0-0 2, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 16-19 75. TEXAS - Mouton 4-12 3-4 12, Buckman 0-2 2-2 2, Klotz 5-7 0-0 10, Paulino 1-1 0-0 3, Ivey 4-8 9-10 17, Thomas 3-4 1-2 7, Tucker 4-6 2-3 10, Moreno 1-1 0-0 2, Taylor 3-7 0-0 7, Harris 1-2 0-0 3, Boddicker 1-5 2-2 5. Totals 27-55 19-23 78. Half: Texas, 44-39. 3-point goals-North Carolina 9-28 (McCants 5-12, Felton 3-7, Scott 1-4, Manuel 0-1, Noel 0-1, Williams 0-3), Texas 5-13 (Paulino 1-1, Harris 1-2, Mouton 1-2, Boddicker 1-4, Taylor 1-4). Fouled out-Manuel, May. Rebounds-North Carolina 36 (May 9), Texas 35 (Thomas 6). Assists-North Carolina 14 (Felton, Scott 6), Texas 10 (Ivey 4). Total fouls-North Carolina 21, Texas 19. A-19,405.

Regional highlights

Top performer: Duke's J.J. Redick scored a game-high 21 points, including two three-pointers and a 7-for-7 showing at the foul line.

Big surprise: North Carolina's Sweet 16 drought grew to four years after the Tar Heels' 78-75 loss to Texas. The Longhorns are going for the third straight season.

He said it: "They keyed in on me. I mean, a lot of teams do that, but they really put the zoom on me." - Seton Hall's Andre Barrett after scoring 8 points vs. Duke

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