UNC reigns, but Duke drops

Top-seeded Tar Heels hold off Villanova


Ncaa Tournament

March 26, 2005|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Villanova's four guards had given North Carolina fits. The Tar Heels' floor leader was on the bench and the score was tied heading in the final eight minutes, when an unlikely source from Baltimore steadied the top seed and restored order in the Syracuse Regional.

Overcoming 28 points by Wildcats junior Randy Foye and an early 12-point deficit, North Carolina held on for a 67-66 victory over the Wildcats last night that wasn't secure until the final buzzer.

The Tar Heels will meet sixth-seeded Wisconsin tomorrow at the Carrier Dome, with the winner moving on to the Final Four.

Coach Roy Williams' Tar Heels (30-4), regular-season champions in the Atlantic Coast Conference, won for the 11th time in 12 games by repelling the challenge of a fifth-seeded Villanova team (24-8) that didn't look like it had spent the season on sick call.

Coach Jay Wright's Wildcats lost Curtis Sumpter, their top rebounder and second-leading scorer, in the game that got them here, but they didn't lose hope of a 20th anniversary reprise of their surprise 1985 title until the Tar Heels got a huge break on an official's call.

With Raymond Felton playing just two of the last eight minuutes and Southern High graduate Melvin Scott forced into emergency duty at the point, North Carolina scored on five of its next six possessions and used an 11-0 run to break a tie and go up 61-50 with 4:48 remaining.

It was 61-54 when Felton subbed back in for Scott. The Tar Heels had a 64-54 lead on a three-pointer by freshman forward Marvin Williams with 3:45 left, but they soon lost their offensive way without Felton, who fouled out with 2:11 left. The Wildcats scored the next eight points to cut it to 64-62 with 40 seconds left.

"There was more of a panic after Raymond went out," Roy Williams said.

Scott nonetheless broke a three-minute scoreless drought with a pair of free throws with 28.9 seconds that built the difference to four points, but Villanova wasn't done.

Foye made a free throw, the Wildcats controlled the miss on the second and weren't done even when a travel call wiped out a potential three-point play by Allan Ray with nine seconds left.

Scott appeared to bump Ray as 30,916, the largest crowd ever to watch an NCAA tournament game on campus, saw his short runner go in and heard a whistle blow. Instead of a foul, Tom O'Neill called Ray for taking an extra half step, and the Tar Heels had survived.

"Once they called traveling, I felt like a kid in a candy shop," Scott said of a nerve-racking result in the the biggest game of his college career. "I had tears in my eyes, tears of joy, tears of fear. We hung in there."

Scott's playing time reached a career low this season, but he didn't make a mistake at the offensive end last night, where he made all three of his shots, had two assists and no turnovers in his longest stint of the season at the point.

Rashad McCants' free throw was the difference, as Kyle Lowry's three with 1.8 seconds left got Villanova within one.

The Tar Heels got 17 points from McCants, 14 points and 10 rebounds from Sean May, and 16 points from Williams. Felton had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, but he also committed six of his team's 17 turnovers.

Down by as many as 12 points in the first half and 42-37 with 14:48 remaining, North Carolina scored the next seven points to take its first lead with 11:43 left.

They came in the middle of a 13-3 run that put the Tar Heels up 50-45. Seconds later, Felton went to the bench with his fourth foul.

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