(5) Villanova 66

(24-8, 11-5 Big East)

(1) North Carolina 67

(30-4, 14-2 ACC)

    9:55 PM ET, March 25, 2005

    Carrier Dome, Syracuse, New York

    1 2 T
    #5VILL 33 3366
    #1UNC 29 3867

    Top Performers

    Villanova: K. Lowry 18 Pts, 7 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

    North Carolina: S. May 14 Pts, 10 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    Villanova's spirited surge in closing minutes falls short

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- The whistle blew in the final seconds just as the ball left the hand of Villanova's Allan Ray. Defender Melvin Scott only hoped his foul came before the basket.

    Much to Scott's surprise -- not to mention Ray and his teammates and coaches -- referee Tom O'Neill instead called traveling, leaving North Carolina with possession of the ball and a three-point lead.

    "Once they called traveling, I felt like a kid in a candy store, I was so happy," Scott said.

    Most tourney wins by a coach without a title
    Eddie Sutton -- 39
    Roy Williams -- 38
    Guy Lewis -- 26
    John Chaney --23
    Bob Huggins -- 20
    Gene Keady -- 19
    Lou Henson -- 19
    Rick Majerus -- 18
    Billy Tubbs -- 18
    Tom Davis -- 18

    The top-seeded Tar Heels took advantage of the good fortune, holding off the Wildcats 67-66 Friday night to advance to the regional finals for the first time since 2000.

    "I thought the ref called the foul, but he called the walk," Ray said. "I feel we should have never put ourselves in that position anyway. I can't say that's the reason we lost, because of that one play."

    Following the turnover, fifth-seeded Villanova (24-8) was forced to foul, and Rashad McCants made a free throw with 7.6 seconds left to increase the Tar Heels' margin to four. Kyle Lowry rattled in a 3-pointer about 5 seconds later to bring the Wildcats to 67-66, and he chased down Sean May's errant inbounds pass just before the buzzer.

    But his desperation heave was wide, letting North Carolina (30-4) move on to play Wisconsin in the round of eight in the Syracuse Regional. The Badgers beat North Carolina State 65-56 earlier Friday.

    "We all just hung in there and stuck together," Scott said. "We just found a way. It wasn't coaching, it was us. We did it."

    Debris was thrown on the court from the stands after the frantic finish, but order quickly was restored.

    McCants scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Marvin Williams added 16 for the Tar Heels. Point guard Raymond Felton had 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists before fouling out for the first time this season.

    He missed the season opener with a one-game suspension for playing in an unsanctioned summer league game, and the Tar Heels promptly lost to Santa Clara. With Felton on the court, they have looked downright unbeatable at times, but they couldn't rely on him against Villanova.

    It didn't matter. North Carolina won anyway.

    "That's how deep my team is," Felton said.

    Randy Foye led the Wildcats with a career-high 28 points, and Lowry also set his career best with 18 points. Ray, the leading scorer coming in with an average of 16.5 points, had another miserable performance, shooting 2-for-14 and scoring seven points. In the tournament, he finished only 3-for-32.

    "We gave it our all out there," Ray said. "We didn't give up."

    Villanova was in the game the whole way despite not having Curtis Sumpter, a 6-7 forward who was the second-leading scorer for the Wildcats. Sumpter tore a knee ligament last Sunday in the first half of a victory over Florida in the second round.

    With Foye leading the way, Villanova jumped to a commanding lead in the first half. He scored 11 points in the opening 4½ minutes -- most with a defender right in his face -- and his 3 with about 6 minutes left before halftime made it 30-19.

    "That was the hottest I think anybody's been on us," Tar Heels forward David Noel said. "They couldn't miss a shot."

    Foye cooled off, and North Carolina rallied behind McCants, who ditched a new pair of shoes during the break and got his game back, too. Held to two points in the first half, he immediately took over when Felton went out following his fourth foul.

    "I'm a very superstitious guy, and I only had two points at halftime," McCants said. "So I went back to the old ones."

    He swished a jumper from beyond the arc about 60 seconds later to give the Tar Heels the lead for good, and on three of the next four possessions, he drew fouls and converted both free throws each time to make it 61-50.

    The Wildcats didn't quit. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their improbable run to the NCAA championship, they rallied behind Lowry, a 6-foot freshman. He leaped high for an offensive rebound and got fouled. His two free throws made it 61-54.

    Later, following a 3-pointer by Williams, Lowry powered over McCants for a layup as he was hit on the arm, and completed the three-point play. Finally, he forced Felton into his fifth foul by drawing a charge with 2:11 left. Villanova got a 3 from Mike Nardi, two free throws from Ray and another one by Foye to get within two.

    But even without Felton, the Tar Heels did enough to win. They had only one turnover with senior Melvin Scott running the offense, and he also made two free throws to make it 66-63, setting up the final seconds.

    "We came here to win the tournament," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I really believe that we were good enough to win this tournament. We will definitely look back on this season and be proud of what we accomplished. It just hurts at this time."

    Game notes

    Lowry started for only the third time this season, taking the place of Sumpter. Lowry was in for about 2½ minutes before Jason Fraser came in. ... Noel fell to the floor after getting hit in the groin late in the first half, but walked unassisted to the bench and later returned. ... The total attendance, counted at halftime of the second game, was 30,916, a new on-campus record for the NCAA tournament. The previous mark of 30,681 also was set at the Carrier Dome in 2000.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 66 67
    FG Made-Attempted 23-61 (.377) 20-48 (.417)
    3P Made-Attempted 8-28 (.286) 8-19 (.421)
    FT Made-Attempted 12-19 (.632) 19-24 (.792)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (0/0) 24 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 12 11


    » Mar 25, 2005 @UNC 67, VILL 66Recap