Over the years, the Gonzaga and North Carolina men’s basketball teams have squared off four times.
After the Zags pulled off a signature victory in 2006 at Madison Square Garden, the Tar Heels have reeled off three straight wins, including 2017’s national championship matchup. On Wednesday, No. 2-ranked GU looks to break its three-game losing streak to UNC when the Tar Heels visit McCarthey Athletic Center for a 6 p.m. tip.
Following are recaps from reporter Jim Meehan from the previous four games.
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 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 to play. 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 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.”
2018: North Carolina 103, Gonzaga 90
The combination of inattentive defense and rebounding issues dogged Gonzaga in this December showdown, and the Tar Heels took full advantage in front of a boisterous full house of 21,750 at the Dean Smith Center.
The loss sent reporters scouring the media guide to figure out the previous time Gonzaga allowed an opponent to reach the century mark in regulation. The answer: Jan. 3, 2007, when Virginia beat the visiting Zags 108-87.
Coming off a loss to Tennessee, the Zags (9-2) suffered their second consecutive defeat, which hadn’t happened since February 2014. Just as it happened against Tennessee, Gonzaga was dominated on the boards. North Carolina pulled down 14 offensive rebounds and made GU pay for nearly every one with a 27-0 edge in second-chance points. Ballgame.
“I mean, that’s an amazing stat,” coach Williams marveled.
Not so much for the Zags.
“We lost it on defensive rebounding,” said junior forward Rui Hachimura, who had 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists, but connected on just 5 of 14 shots.
North Carolina (8-2) had its own issues on defense and committed 23 turnovers, leading to 29 GU points. It hardly mattered because the Zags could not make enough stops or grab enough defensive boards to put serious pressure on UNC after falling behind 24-12 midway through the first half.
“I feel like through stretches of those games we were really soft,” GU sophomore wing Zach Norvell Jr. said. “We didn’t really put our best foot forward on the defensive end and we weren’t locked in mentally.”
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