'Heels Pull a Fast One on Spartans

From Associated Press

Top-ranked North Carolina used its superior speed and skill to toss aside Michigan State as Antawn Jamison had 20 points and 14 rebounds in a 73-58 victory in the East Regional semifinals on Thursday night.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (33-3) moved within one victory of the single-season school record for wins and a fifth Final Four trip this decade, beating the slower Spartans almost every step of the way.

Vince Carter added 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Shammond Williams had 18 points and a career-tying nine rebounds for the Tar Heels. North Carolina will play the Connecticut-Washington winner in Saturday's regional final.

Mateen Cleaves, the Big Ten player of the year, led the Spartans (22-8) with 18 points, but he made only seven of 21 shots and couldn't solve North Carolina's switching defenses as Michigan State shot 31%.

Playing in front of a huge partisan crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum less than one hour from campus, North Carolina had too many offensive weapons for fourth-seeded Michigan State, a program playing its biggest tournament game since Magic Johnson beat Larry Bird and Indiana State for the 1979 national championship.

The Tar Heels also added one of their better defensive and rebounding games of the season to move to 17-6 all-time in regional semifinals.

Michigan State came into the game as the nation's fifth-best rebounding team and prided itself on getting to every loose ball during a surprising Big Ten season. But it was the Tar Heels who controlled the boards from the outset and totally confused the Spartans with defenses aimed at cutting off Cleaves' drives.

The Tar Heels held a 24-13 advantage on the boards in the opening 20 minutes and limited the Spartans to 34.5% shooting to lead by as many as 15.

Michigan State had outscored 21 of its last 25 opponents in the second half and was far from giving up after trailing by 14 at the half.

The Spartans abandoned their inside game in the early stages of the second half, making four three-pointers to close to 44-40 with 15:17 left, but Cleaves couldn't get his team any closer.

He missed three straight shots after the Spartans got within four as Michigan State went without a basket for almost 10 minutes, going 0 for 14 as the Tar Heels pulled away.

North Carolina Coach Bill Guthridge tied Indiana State's Bill Hodges for the most wins by a first-year coach. Hodges accomplished the feat in 1978-79.

The Tar Heels built much of its first-half cushion without Jamison, who got off to a one-for-six start. But that didn't last long. The All-American closed out the half with an alley-oop dunk, two free throws, a layup and a follow shot as the Tar Heels took a 38-24 halftime lead.

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