Tar Heels Outgun Spartans, 87-71

In the end, it was poor shooting that did in the Spartans as Rashad McCants and the rest of the Tar Heels roared out of the lockeroom in the second half to shoot 20-of-35 from the field on their way to a 87-71 victory.

The Michigan State Spartans picked a bad night to go cold offensively.

The Spartans shot just 25-of-74 from the field (.337) for the game, while the North Carolina Tar Heels went 35-of-71 (.492), including 20-of-35 (.571) in the second half to cruise to an 87-71 semi-final victory Saturday night in front of 47,754 fans at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO.

In the first half Michigan State (26-7), who had already knocked off Duke and Kentucky in the regional, seemed poised to knock off another member of college basketball's royalty; shutting down Tar Heel big man Sean May while crashing the boards to claim a 38-33 lead at halftime.

But North Carolina scored the first six points of the second half to grab the lead for good. The Tar Heels made 11 of their first 15 shots to take control and forced the Spartans into a game of catch up the rest of the night.

May was held to 2-of-8 shooting in the first half, but hit 7-of-10 shots over the final 20 minutes to finish with 22 points. He was joined in double figures by teammates Jawad Williams (20), Rashad McCants (17) and Raymond Felton (16).

It was a special night for Williams, who was just averaging 3.6 points over his last five games after averaging 14.6 ppg in the previous 30 contests this season.

The Spartans were led in scoring by Maurice Ager's game-high 24 points. Shannon Brown chipped in with 15, and Paul Davis added 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Despite the impressive totals, the three players combined for just 18-of-48 shooting (.375).

It was a disappointing final game in the scoring department for the Michigan State senior trio of Alan Anderson, Kelvin Torbert, and Chris Hill too; as they combined for 11 points on just 5-for-21 shooting.

The Spartans were outrebounded by the Tar Heels 51-to-42, and were outscored in the paint by a 46-to-28 margin, although at halftime that margin was just 22-to-18 in favor of the Tar Heels.

North Carolina (32-4) now moves on to Monday night to face their third-straight Big Ten opponent, taking on an Illinois team that has lost only once (37-1 overall) and was ranked No. 1 much of the season. The Illini cruised past Louisville 72-57 in the first semifinal Saturday.

North Carolina ended the regular season ranked second, setting up the first 1-2 matchup in the final since UCLA defeated Kentucky in 1975.

Aside from their current championship aspirations, both teams have some extra incentive going into the game. Illinois, in its 100 year of basketball at the school, is seeking its first ever national championship. At the same time North Carolina will attempt to give their head coach, Roy Williams, his first ever national championship. Williams, who is in just his second season as the Tar Heels head coach, went 0-for-4 in the Final Four during 15 years at Kansas, losing twice in the championship game.


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