Published March 24, 2007
North Carolina wouldn't let a huge second-half deficit stand in the way of an enticing rematch of its 1982 championship game with Georgetown.
Despite subpar games by Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, the Tar Heels (31-6) rebounded down the stretch and set up a regional final Sunday for college basketball fans to savor.
Down by 16 points early in the second half, the top-seeded Tar Heels suddenly shifted into another gear. Fueled by a big run, they pulled off their biggest rally of the season and beat Southern California 74-64 on Friday night in the East Regional semifinals.
"It was a fantastic comeback to say the least," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I have a great deal of confidence in my team. ... I knew we wouldn't give up."
North Carolina, the top seed in the East, advanced to the regional final against No. 2 seed Georgetown. The Hoyas escaped with a win when Jeff Green spun and banked in a short, off-balance shot with 2.5 seconds to play to lift them to a 66-65 victory over Vanderbilt in the other semifinal.
In the Midwest Regional, No. 1 seed Florida started slowly — again — and staved off another challenge with a late surge to beat Butler 65-57, giving the Gators a matchup with Oregon in the regional final.
Tajuan Porter tied an NCAA regional record with eight 3-pointers and finished with 33 points, and the third-seeded Ducks withstood a frantic comeback to top seventh-seeded UNLV 76-72.
This is the first time since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that there will be three 1-2 matchups in the regional finals.
Georgetown coach John Thompson III was a boy sitting behind the Hoyas' bench and his dad — coach John Thompson — in that game in 1982, when Tar Heels freshman Michael Jordan hit the winning shot.
"The 25 years, it seems to have gone by fast," the elder Thompson said at courtside when the night was over. "I've talked to Michael, kidding him that I made his career."
This time, another Carolina freshman was the key to victory. Wright finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. He somehow offset Hansbrough's 1-for-6 shooting for five points and Lawson's four points.
Lawson, a sparkplug all season, admitted he was worried.
"A little bit when they went up 16 and they were in their flow and we still weren't playing defense," Lawson said. "That's when we decided we were going to pick it up or we were going home."
Georgetown 66, Vanderbilt 65
At East Rutherford, N.J., Green squeezed between two defenders and Georgetown squeezed out a win.
The victory was the seventh straight and 18th in 19 games for second-seeded Georgetown (29-6) and put them in the regional final for the first time in 11 years.
Vanderbilt (22-12) had one last chance to win the game but a long 3-pointer by Alex Gordon was contested by Green, the Big East player of the year.
The sixth-seeded Commodores had taken a 65-64 lead with 17.9 seconds to play when Dan Cage hit two free throws after being fouled grabbing the rebound of a Patrick Ewing Jr.'s missed jumper.
After a timeout, Georgetown inbounded the pass and Jessie Sapp brought the ball upcourt and gave it to Green at the foul line extended.
Green started to make a move and fumbled the ball. He recovered, made a turnaround move and banked home the short jumper. Replays seemed to indicate he may have walked by switching his pivot foot.
Florida 65, Butler 57
At St. Louis, Al Horford had 16 points, seven rebounds and a key block in the final minute to help the top-seeded Gators hold off undersized Butler.
The Gators (32-5), trying to become the first team since Duke in 1992 to win consecutive national titles, advanced to the Midwest Regional final Sunday against Oregon.
The defending national champions trailed by as many as nine and never found their comfort zone against the scrappy Bulldogs (29-7).
Oregon 76, UNLV 72
At St. Louis, Tajuan Porter has Oregon one game away from the Final Four.
The diminutive freshman tied an NCAA regional record with eight 3-pointers and finished with 33 points, and Oregon withstood a frantic comeback to top seventh-seeded UNLV.
Malik Hairston had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Oregon (29-7), which hasn't reached a Final Four since winning it all in 1939.