March 22, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Villanova Wildcats dug their way out of a 20-point first half hole to grab the lead in the second half but were ultimately outlasted by the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 78-71 tonight in a second round NCAA Tournament game here at the Sprint Center.
Villanova concludes its season with a record of 20-14 while the Tar Heels improve to 25-10 overall, 12-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I want to congratulate North Carolina," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "They did what they do well, and we didn't stop it like we wanted to. There were eleven threes for them and four for us. I think that was the key to the game. That's what they do.
"But I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of their effort. We got down 20. They never quit. They've done that all year."
Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston led the `Cats with 20 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes of activity in his first NCAA Tournament appearance. Sophomore Darrun Hilliard contributed 18 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in his NCAA debut while senior Mouphtaou Yarou added 17 points and eight rebounds in his final appearance as a Wildcat.
"Mouphtaou has definitely been one of my favorite guys to coach," stated Wright. "I think he's come as far as anyone. He's gotten so much better. I think he's one of the best forwards in the country."
"I learned a lot just playing for Villanova," noted Yarou. "I met a lot of great people. Coach Wright helped me a lot through ups and downs. He was right there pushing me. He always believed in me."
Pinkston scored the game's first points to give Villanova an early 2-0 lead before Carolina went on a 15-6 spurt over the next seven minutes to build a 15-8 advantage with 12:47 to play on the first half clock. Reggie Bullock scored six of those points for the Tar Heels.
The Carolina lead grew to 28-11 with 9:08 remaining in the first half thanks in large part to sizzling shooting from the Tar Heels. North Carolina sank 10 of its first 15 field goal attempts, including 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. P.J. Hairston had eight of those points while James Michael McAdoo added six more.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, struggled to create an offensive flow, connecting on 5-of-16 field goal attempts while committing seven turnovers.
Villanova pulled back to within 35-21 after a Pinkston basket on the inside with just over four minutes to play in the period. The sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y., tallied nine of those first 21points.
The Wildcats continued their climb back into the contest with a 6-2 run over the final 3:31 to narrow the gap to 37-29 at intermission.
Pinkston's nine points set the scoring pace for the Cats in the period while Yarou and Hilliard chipped in with six apiece. VU connected on 12-of-24 field goal attempts and held a 14-12 edge over the Tar Heels on the glass.
McAdoo and Hairston set the scoring pace for North Carolina with 10 points each. The Tar Heels were also 12-of-24 from the field in the first 20 minutes, and 5-of-11 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The `Cats came all the way back courtesy of an 11-3 run to open the second half which was capped by a Hilliard drive and score near the 16 minute mark of the second half. The game was tied at 42.
North Carolina used a 12-6 run sparked by two more 3-pointers to regain a 54-48 lead with under 10 minutes to play in the second half. The Wildcats narrowed that to 54-50 before the Tar Heels drained three consecutive 3-pointers, the final two out of the hands of Bullock.
The count was 63-54 in North Carolina's favor with 5:07 remaining the in contest.
However, Villanova kept applying pressure and shaved the margin to 67-66 with under four minutes left. But Marcus Paige drained a huge triple to extend the lead to 70-66 and the Wildcats were never able to regain the lead down the stretch despite a frantic effort.
The final count was 78-71.
"I think the guys understand what they've learned," said Wright. "I think everybody's upset right now. We really wanted to do this for Mouph and Mo (Sutton).
"We thought we were good enough to win the game, we really did. But you've got to give Carolina credit. We didn't play as well as they did tonight."