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North Carolina Beats Syracuse To Advance To NCAA Final

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game against Syracuse, Saturday, April 2, in Houston.
Eric Gay AP
North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks during the first half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game against Syracuse, Saturday, April 2, in Houston.

North Carolina will look for its sixth NCAA championship when the Tar Heels meet the Villanova Wildcats, trying for their second, on Monday night.

The Tar Heels (33-6) last won it all in 2009 and Villanova's only title came in 1985.

Both teams advanced to the championship game with lopsided wins, but Villanova's was far more of a blowout than North Carolina's.


The top-seeded Tar Heels beat 10-seed Syracuse 83-66 on Saturday night in a national semifinal for their 10th straight win. That was after the Wildcats made easy work of Buddy Hield and Oklahoma, with a 95-51 trampling that was the biggest margin of victory in a national semifinal game.

Villanova (34-5) did it with 71.4 percent shooting led by Josh Hart, who scored 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting.

That percentage was the second best in the history of the Final Four. The only team to shoot a higher percentage was that eighth-seeded team in 1985 eighth-seeded team coached by Rollie Massimino which shot 78.6 percent to pull an upset over Georgetown in the final.

"They shot the ball very efficient tonight," Hield said of Villanova. "If a team do this, I feel they can go win it all."

It won't be easy against the only No. 1 seed to advance to the Final Four this season. Coach Roy Williams has already led two North Carolina teams to championships and this squad has won each of its five tournament games this year by an average of 16.2 points.


Nevada sports books opened betting on the title game with North Carolina as a 2-point favorite.

Williams wasn't ready to talk about the next game just minutes after North Carolina had wrapped up its semifinal victory.

"Marty Schottenheimer, the coach of the Chiefs a long time ago, had the greatest saying in the world: 'Enjoy the dickens out of it until midnight and then worry about that other team,'" he said.

North Carolina has reached the title game for the 10th time and it will be just the third appearance for Villanova.

The two schools have some tournament history with the Tarheels beating Villanova in the tournament on the way to their titles in 1982, 2005 and 2009.

They downed the Wildcats in the national semifinals in 2009 before beating Michigan State for the championship.

The Wildcats seemed to handle their easy win exactly the way a coach would hope a team with its biggest game to come would. Forward Daniel Ochefu, who was one of six Villanova players to score in double figures, insisted there was no postgame revelry after Saturday night's victory.

"It was very businesslike," he said. "No one was celebrating. Everyone understands that our next game on Monday we'll be playing a great team and we're not celebrating. We told each other at the end of the game that we have a lot of work to do. We can still get better."

North Carolina also had a balanced scoring attack in its semifinal win with Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson adding 16 points each to go with 15 from Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige's 13.

But it was the defensive effort of the Tar Heels that Williams was most excited about.

"The last four weeks we've been much, much better defensively," he said. "We had a brain lapse there for about three minutes in the second half, but other than that I thought we were really good defensively against a team that's hard to guard."

The matchup on Monday could be interesting inside after both teams dominated in the paint on Saturday. Villanova outscored Oklahoma 38-20 inside and North Carolina had more points but the same margin by making 50 inside to 32 by Syracuse.

"Our main goal is to play a similar goal to what we played tonight, get the ball inside, really try to pound it in there and knock down our free throws," Meeks said.

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