- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2005

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - North Carolina won without Raymond Felton - barely.

After the star point guard fouled out, the top-seeded Tar Heels did just enough down the stretch to hold off Villanova 67-66 last night, earning a trip to the regional finals for the first time since 2000.

The Wildcats missed a chance to tie it in the final seconds when Allan Ray was called for traveling on a drive to the basket. He made the shot as he was slapped across the arm, but referee Tom O’Neill already had blown his whistle for the violation.

Villanova (24-8) was forced to foul, and Rashad McCants made a free throw with 7.6 seconds left to increase the Tar Heels’ margin to four. Kyle Lowry rattled in a 3-pointer about 5 seconds later to bring the Wildcats to 67-66, and he chased down Sean May’s errant inbounds pass just before the buzzer.

But his desperation heave was wide, letting North Carolina (30-4) advance to play Wisconsin in the final of the Syracuse Regional. The Badgers beat North Carolina State 65-56 earlier last night.

After the frantic finish, some debris was thrown on the court from the stands, but order quickly was restored.

McCants had 15 of his 17 points in the second half and Marvin Williams scored 16 for the Tar Heels. Felton finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists before fouling out for the first time this season.

He missed the season opener with a one-game suspension for playing in an unsanctioned summer league game, and the Tar Heels promptly lost to Santa Clara. With him on the court, they have looked downright unbeatable at times, but they couldn’t rely on him against Villanova.

Randy Foye led the Wildcats with a career-high 28 points, and Lowry also set his career best with 18 points.

Villanova was in the game the whole way despite not having Curtis Sumpter, a 6-7 forward who was the second-leading scorer for the Wildcats. Sumpter tore a knee ligament last Sunday in the first half of a victory over Florida.

Notes - Lowry started for only the third time this season, taking the place of Sumpter. Lowry was in for about 2-1/2 minutes before Jason Fraser came in. North Carolina F David Noel fell to the floor after getting hit in the groin late in the first half, but walked unassisted to the bench and later returned. The total attendance, counted at halftime of the second game, was 30,916, a new on-campus record for the NCAA tournament. The previous mark of 30,681 also was set at the Carrier Dome in 2000.

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