The series consists of just three games, but what a trio for both programs.
No. 4 Gonzaga (9-1) visits No. 12 North Carolina (7-2) at the Dean Smith Center on Saturday in a matchup that should, on paper, generate another interesting chapter.
The Zags are 1-2 with the win coming 12 years ago over second-ranked North Carolina. That stood as Gonzaga’s highest-ranked victory until the Zags defeated No. 1 Duke three-plus weeks ago in Maui.
The Tar Heels probably consider GU something of a postseason good luck charm. The last two of North Carolina’s six NCAA titles included tournament wins over the Zags.
Here’s a look at the series.
2006: Gonzaga 82, North Carolina 74
Senior guard Derek Raivio and youngsters Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin led the Zags to one of the biggest wins in program history at Madison Square Garden, one of the world’s biggest stages.
UNC scored the first 10 points, but Abdullahi Kuso struck for eight straight points to spark Gonzaga’s comeback. The Zags led 40-37 at half and stretched it to 65-50 with 12 minutes left.
The Tar Heels cut it to two with 4:16 remaining, but Pargo’s three-point play restored the lead to five and Raivio added a jumper and a free throw.
“A lot of people doubt the play of Gonzaga now that Adam (Morrison) is gone,” Pargo said, “and we’ve just been preparing for a moment like this.”
Raivio scored 21 points and was supported by sophomores Heytvelt (19 points, eight rebounds) and Pargo (16 points, four rebounds), and freshman Bouldin (14 points, six assists, four rebounds).
Gonzaga’s double-teams bottled up All-American candidate Tyler Hansbrough, who attempted just five shots and finished with nine points and four turnovers. Forward Brandan Wright, who went on to a 10-year NBA career, posted 21 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
“The best team won the game tonight, and the coach that did the best job was on the other bench,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
The victory propelled Gonzaga into the NIT Season Tip-Off Finals. Butler beat the Zags 79-71 to win the tournament.
2009: North Carolina 98, Gonzaga 77
The top-seeded Tar Heels led by 28 before coasting to a 98-77 win in the Sweet 16 in Memphis, Tennessee.
UNC, loaded with future pros, made 53 percent of its shots, 58 percent beyond the arc. Hansbrough scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Ty Lawson had 19 points and nine assists. Wayne Ellington had 19 points, Danny Green 13.
“It seemed like they were playing with six guys,” Zags sophomore Austin Daye said.
Seven minutes in, Gonzaga was shooting 85.7 percent – and trailed by three. Pargo scored a team-high 16 points, Heytvelt had 14, Micah Downs 12 and Daye 10. Bouldin was limited to seven points, seven less than his average.
“I’ve said all along if all 16 of us (in the Sweet 16) play at the top of our game, North Carolina wins the national championship,” said Zags coach Mark Few, who was right on the mark.
The Tar Heels rolled to the national title with wins over Radford (101-58), LSU (84-70), GU, Oklahoma (72-60), Villanova (83-69) and Michigan State (89-72).
2017: North Carolina 71, Gonzaga 65
Nigel Williams-Goss put the Zags up 65-63 with a bank shot with just less than 2 minutes remaining, capping his personal run of eight straight GU points.
The Tar Heels (33-7) rattled off the last eight points to end the Zags’ first trip to the Final Four one step short of winning the national championship.
Justin Jackson’s three-point play gave UNC the lead and Williams-Goss rolled his ankle with 1:25. Isaiah Hicks scored inside and Kennedy Meeks swatted a Williams-Goss’ shot, leading to a Jackson dunk.
Williams-Goss had 15 points and Josh Perkins added 13, all in the first half. Johnathan Williams, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins each had nine points.
The Zags (37-2) shot a season-low 33.9 percent while North Carolina was barely better at 35.6 inside cavernous University of Phoenix Stadium.
“We did a lot of things that people didn’t expect us to do,” Williams-Goss said. “And we put in the work. We were right there, good enough to win a national championship.”
Final Four most outstanding player Joel Berry II, now teammates with Williams on the G-League South Bay Lakers, hit UNC’s only four 3-pointers and scored 22 points. Jackson added 16.
“I don’t think either team played really well, but I told my team with 3 minutes left, the first day of practice if you had told me we were going to be in this situation I would have taken it,” UNC coach Williams said. “And we did play the last 3 minutes.”
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