Josh Heytvelt scored 19 points, Jeremy Pargo 16 and Matt Bouldin chipped in 14 points and six assists as Gonzaga upended No. 2-ranked North Carolina 82-74.
On Nov. 22, 2006.
“Leon (Rice, assistant coach) and I just finished watching it,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said earlier this week. “There were a lot of the same characters in the play that will be in this one, too. They look different, but they’re the same characters.”
In addition to the aforementioned Bulldogs (plus Will Foster, who didn’t play), the Tar Heels have seven holdovers from the 2006 game, including standouts Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, who will take the court when the teams meet in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis, Tenn. UNC’s current starting five all played in the 2006 contest.
That victory marked Gonzaga’s only win over a No. 2-ranked team. The Bulldogs have never defeated a No. 1-ranked or NCAA tournament No. 1-seeded opponent. The Tar Heels, the top seed in the South Regional, are ranked second in the Associated Press poll.
The 2006 loss marked the first for UNC’s heralded recruiting class of Lawson, Ellington and Deon Thompson. Lawson and Ellington are three-year starters, though Lawson came off the bench in the 2006 game. Thompson is a two-year starter.
Ellington said details of the game are a little hazy, but he remembers “they kicked our butts.”
“We know that they’re a great team. They have a lot of talent,” he said. “We got a bad taste from the last time we played Gonzaga. That was our first loss of the season. We owe them.”
Hansbrough has scored in double figures in 130 of 138 career games. He was limited to nine points by the Zags in the 2006 preseason NIT game at Madison Square Garden in New York. While Heytvelt has received credit for outplaying Hansbrough, the Bulldogs’ center said much of the defensive kudos belong to David Pendergraft and Abdullahi Kuso, which allowed Heytvelt to help out with four blocked shots.
“We did a lot of banging, it was just a really physical game,” Heytvelt said. “It ended up working in our favor. Both teams are completely different. We have to go and do a bunch of different things this time.”
Hansbrough has 77 career games with at least 20 points and 45 career double-doubles.
“I remember they came out after us from the gate,” Hansbrough said. “Heytvelt was very tough.”
Hansbrough averaged 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds during his sophomore season. He followed that by averaging 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds to win 2008 national player of the year honors. He’s at 21.2 points and 8.1 rebounds this season.
“He’s just evolved everything he had back then,” Heytvelt said. “When you’re a sophomore, obviously you’re not as polished as you can be.”
North Carolina coach Roy Williams has a tape of the game on his desk, but hadn’t watched it as of Tuesday afternoon. His recollection was “Heytvelt and Bouldin played really well. I thought Josh was sensational against us.”
Gonzaga shot 57 percent in the second half and led by as many 16. The Tar Heels narrowed the gap to two, but the Bulldogs pulled away. Derek Raivio, who was a senior that season, had a team-high 21 points for Gonzaga. GU lost to Butler in the championship game.
The Zags and Tar Heels downplayed any potential carryover effect from the 2006 contest.
“We’re going to look at a few clips from that game, but we know it’s a completely different team,” Bouldin said. “But we feel like we can play with anybody this year. We feel really confident in our game and our team, and hopefully we’ll go at them like we did back then.”
Trying to advance to the Elite Eight should be sufficient motivation, Hansbrough said. “It’s a pretty big game for us.”
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