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North Carolina 83 Villanova 69: Quick Recap

 

NCAA Final Four Villanova N Carolina Basketball

The No. 3-seeded Wildcats had grown accustomed to playing the role of underdog; after all, no team has won more games as a lower seed in the history of the NCAA tournament than Villanova. Unfortunately, as members of the 1985 championship squad looked on amongst a crowd of close to 70,000, Head Coach Jay Wright and the team known for its grit and toughness just didn’t have enough for the high-octane Tar Heels. The magical run to the Final Four came to a close against No. 1-seeded North Carolina 83-69. 

It was clear early that Villanova was going to have a long night. Throughout the tournament, the Wildcats have dictated their own pace and forced teams to play their best basketball. On Saturday, Villanova simply turned into a jump shooting team, and the shots didn’t fall. Wildcat players were a combined 0-6 from beyond the arc before junior guard Scottie Reynolds knocked down a three midway through the first half.  

The Tar Heels on the other hand were anything but cold when it came to shooting the ball. Guards Danny Green and Wayne Ellington were a combined 5 of 8 from 3-point range and three Carolina players scored in double figures in the first half – forward Tyler Hansbrough led everyone with 14 points, Ellington had 13, and guard Ty Lawson closed out the half with 11.  

North Carolina led by as much as much as 17 points in the opening half, but Villanova continued to scratch and claw, pulling the score to within 9, 49-40. Despite out rebounding the Heels, including six more offensive rebounds, and taking eight more shots, the Wildcats shot only 16.7 percent from deep on 12 attempts. North Carolina shot 54.5 percent from 3-point range.  

Villanova opened the second half with what seemed to be signs of life. After a quick three-pointer from guard Reggie Redding and an easy layup from forward Shane Clark, the Wildcats had pulled to within 5, 50-45. That would be as close as they would get. 

The Tar Heels immediately went on a 9-0 run during a four minute scoreless drought for Villanova to put North Carolina back up by 14 points. UNC never let go of the vice grip, exploding to an 18-point lead with just over four minutes remaining. The Wildcats continued to struggle shooting.  

Villanova shot a deplorable 5 of 27 from deep and only 32.9 percent total for the game. Reynolds led all Wildcat scorers with 17 and senior forward Dante Cunningham managed a double-double, scoring 12 points and bringing in 12 boards. Sophomore Corey Fisher had 13 points off the bench but the young guard took 19 shots from the floor, 0-4 from 3-point range.  

The Carolina starters came as advertised. Lawson and Ellington finished with 22 and 20 respectively, while Hansbrough and Green also scored in double figures. In the end, North Carolina made their 3-pointers and Villanova did not. 

It seemed fitting that the seniors who have meant so much to this team’s run in the postseason, would foul out, forced to slowly walk back to the bench defeated. That’s exactly what forwards Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson did. The winningest senior class in Villanova history came up just short of reaching the pinnacle of college basketball. Now all that awaits is a plane ride home.  
 
 Refusing to quit, Wright continued screaming from the sideline “Let’s not go out this way!” 

But go out they did.   

-Nate McGann

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