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Illinois, UNC earn shot at national title


FINAL FOUR V-Recaps | April 2, 2005 | NCAA Tournament coverage on ESPN.com

North Carolina 87, Michigan State 71
North Carolina coach Roy Williams clearly sent a message at halftime on Saturday night at the Final Four in St. Louis. Michigan State had a five-point lead, and Williams couldn't have been happy with his team's lack of defensive intensity and the limited production from junior point guard Raymond Felton and junior center Sean May.

Well, the second half was a different story – Felton and May almost outscored the Spartans themselves after intermission! They combined for 32 second-half points compared to 33 for the Spartans.
North Carolina has made a commitment to the name on the front of the jersey.

The game changed for the Tar Heels early in the second half when their defense turned things around, forcing turnovers that led to easy baskets. Give the Tar Heels credit for holding Spartans senior Alan Anderson scoreless.

North Carolina also was impressive in the second half on the defensive glass, limiting Michigan State to one shot and getting transition baskets. UNC was able to run much more after halftime.

UNC senior forward Jawad Williams, who struggled in the first four games of the tournament, totaling just 18 points overall, scored 20 points (on 9-of-13 shooting) and grabbed eight rebounds. Williams played with aggressiveness and heart. He's an unsung hero for the Tar Heels, and he was sensational Saturday night.

The bottom line is, Carolina's talented foursome – Williams, May, Felton and Rashad McCants – combined to shoot 31-of-54 from the field, accounting for 75 of Carolina's 87 points. Carolina shot 57 percent from the field in the second half, outscoring the Spartans 54-33.

It is evident that North Carolina has made a commitment to the name on the front of the jersey. The Tar Heels are playing hard for coach Roy Williams, and now Williams gets another shot at his first national championship (he took Kansas to the title game twice).

Yes, now we have a dream matchup for the national title, the one college basketball fans have been looking forward to: North Carolina against Illinois, the two best teams in America. I picked these two teams to get to the title game, and I'm really looking forward to Monday night. It should be awesome, baby!

Illinois 72, Louisville 57
With senior forward Roger Powell and senior guard Luther Head leading the way, Illinois defeated Louisville on Saturday night at the Final Four. Now the Illini are one victory away from winning the first national championship in school history, with coach Bruce Weber in his first title game.

Powell and Head stepped up big-time in the second half, scoring 32 of Illinois' 41 points. In fact, after intermission Powell scored his team's first nine points in the second half. They were absolutely brilliant.

Powell and Head stepped up big-time in the second half, scoring 32 of Illinois' 41 points.
Defensively, junior guard Deron Williams contained All-American Francisco Garcia, Louisville's Mr. Versatility. Coming into the Final Four, Garcia was averaging better than 20 points per game in the tournament – until he ran into Mr. Williams, who held him to four points on 2-of-10 shooting.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino's Cardinals couldn't match up well with Illinois, so he went with a zone. But in the end, the Illini hit 3-pointers, with Head going 6-of-11 on 3s. Powell scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half.

Remember, in Illinois' Elite Eight battle with Arizona, Williams also shut down superstar guard Salim Stoudamire.

The Illini were up by just one point, 50-49, with less than 10 minutes left in the game – and then they went on an 11-0 run to go up 61-49 and put the game away. In the run, Head hit two trifectas and Powell scored two baskets.

All season long, Illinois has found a way to win – their record now is 37-1 – with different players stepping up at just the right time.

In the second half of Saturday's national semifinal, the Powell & Head Show helped coach Bruce Weber's Illini move on to the national championship game.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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