|The first day of the regional semifinals|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 March 2008 17:14|
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
There was never any question about North Carolina's offense. The Tar Heels made quite a statement with their defense Thursday night.
The first East Regional semifinal was a matchup of the country's second-best offense and second-best defense: North Carolina and its 89.9 points per game against Washington State, which allowed an average of 56.1 points.
It was a clash of opposites basketball purists couldn't wait to see but it turned out to be no contest.
North Carolina showed the defensive specialists - the Cougars held Notre Dame to 41 points in the second round - a thing or two about stopping an opponent.
The Tar Heels held Washington State to 31.6 percent shooting, including 2-for-16 from 3-point range, in their 68-47 victory that sent them on to the regional finals for the second straight year.
Center Aron Baynes was 6-for-8 from the field for the Cougars, so except for him, Washington State shot 12-for-49, a number it usually keeps opponents to.
North Carolina broke the 100-point mark in its first two games of the tournament - the first time a team did that since Loyola Marymount in 1990 - and although it didn't come close to that number against Washington State, the Tar Heels won by enough to again clear the bench and get every player in the game.
One of the best defensive segments of the game for the Tar Heels came in the second half when Alex Stepheson blocked a dunk attempt by Washington State's Kyle Weaver and then on the Cougars' next trip down court, Stepheson sent a drive by Weaver into the band behind the basket.
BAD THREES: Three-point shooting is always considered a key to postseason success and Washington State and West Virginia proved that to be true.
The Cougars came into the NCAA tournament shooting 38.1 percent beyond the arc but in their three NCAA games they were 10-for-46 (21.7 percent), including 2-for-16 in the 68-47 East Regional semifinal loss to North Carolina.
West Virginia was fifth in the Big East in 3-point percentage at 35.9 but the Mountaineers made one of 11 from behind the arc in their 79-75 overtime loss to Xavier in the West Regional semifinal.
First-year West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was looking to take a team to the regional finals for the fourth time with the first three coming in a five-year span at Cincinnati that ended in 1996.
NO TIES: Two coaches went without a tie on the bench Thursday night and they both lost.
Washington State's Tony Bennett went with an open-collared shirt and suit jacket in the Cougars' 68-47 loss to North Carolina.
West Virginia's Bob Huggins had a T-shirt under his sports jacket as the Mountaineers fell 79-75 to Xavier in overtime.
Seems that was knot the correct fashion decision.