From the outset, the Sooners were fighting from behind. The Tar Heels bolted to a 13-2 lead and maintained a double-digit edge much of the game, growing the margin to as much as 21 in the second half. OU made a late run, getting to within 12 at 61-49 with 4:32 to play. But Carolina halted the rally and quickly added back to the bulge. "It was encouraging in the second half, when were down 21 and we cut it down,” said Taylor Griffin. "That was encouraging. "They’re an excellent team. It’s hard to come back on a team like that, because they’re going to keep scoring.” Said OU coach Jeff Capel: "I always thought we could get back in it. We’d been down by a large margin before, against Kansas at home, so our guys kept competing.”
LOVE FOR GRIFFINNorth Carolina coach Roy Williams came away impressed with Sooner star Blake Griffin, who scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, despite much attention from the Tar Heels. "In person, when you’re sitting on the bench, it even looks more awesome than it does when I’m watching it on TV,” Williams said.
UGLY OFFENSEThe Sooners’ offensive struggles included too many missed shots and 16 turnovers, including two straight possessions in the first half when they battled the shot clock. First, Tony Crocker had to fire up a desperation 3-pointer. The next trip, the shot clock expired. "I do believe in the first half, defensively, we were really good,” Williams said. "In the second half, let’s be honest, they missed some open shots.”
RESPECTING UNCThe Tar Heels’ reputation always precedes them. One of the nation’s storied basketball programs, No. 2-ranked North Carolina has another team headed to the Final Four. After some bumps in the season, the Tar Heels once again look like the team that many analysts considered the best in the country at the beginning of the season. "It’s not hard to see how talented they are,” said Taylor Griffin. "Throughout the year, I’ve always been impressed with them. They’re as good as advertised, I think.”
HOLLOW POINTSOU freshman Willie Warren scored 18 points, but 14 came in the final 6:13 of the game, after UNC built a 61-40 lead. And in the game’s final 11 1/2 minutes, Blake Griffin got off just one shot for the Sooners. Warren took nine shots during that span.
DUNK ‘N DINKSA third of OU’s baskets came on dunks – eight of 24. Ten more came on tip-ins or layups. Which means the Sooners made only six shots longer than a foot away. "It came down to our inability to make shots,” Capel said. "Carolina had something to do with that, but we got some good looks and just missed them.”
BENCH STRENGTHBelieve it or not, OU’s bench outscored UNC’s 9-8. That was all thanks to Juan Pattillo, who scored all nine points for the Sooners and played 24 minutes. Carolina’s bench contribution came mainly in defending Blake Griffin. Ed Davis played 16 minutes and had four points and four rebounds backing up Deon Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough. BY JOHN HELSLEY AND BERRY TRAMEL