2009 NCAA Tournament: South Regional Sweet 16 Recap & Elite 8 Preview
South Regional @ FedEx Forum, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina (31-4) 98 - No. 4 Gonzaga (28-60) 77
Key Moment: North Carolina led by double figures for the entire second half. That speaks to how well this team dominated.
High Point Scorers: North Carolina -- Tyler Hansbrough 24 Gonzaga -- Jeremy Pargo 16
Analysis: The Tar Heel express was at it again as arguably the best team in college basketball trailed for a total of 40 seconds. That's how good they were. North Carolina looked so impressive that its transition game didn't lose a step. The Tar Heels shot 53 percent and 57.8 percent from 3-point range and had 23 assists. They just weren't very good on free throws at 15-27 (55.6). They also won their 99th NCAA tournament game. That is a record. Going into the evening, UNC and Kentucky were tied with 98 wins. Gonzaga had a great season as it reached the Sweet 16. But coach Mark Few's kids just didn't have any answers.
No. 2 Oklahoma (30-5) 84, No. 3 Syracuse (28-10) 71
Key Moment: Leading 28-24 late in the first half, the Sooners went on an 11-2 run to end the period and take a 39-26 lead into the dressing room.
High Point Scorers: Oklahoma -- Blake Griffin 30, Syracuse -- Jonny Flynn 22
Analysis: The Sooners are advancing to their first Elite Eight since 2003 because they solved the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone because they got off to a quick start and and made their 3s. OU was 9-21 (42.9) from the arc -- 54 percent for the game -- and Griffin (14 rebounds) had his 29th double double of the year. Syracuse got off to a ragged start and then had to deal with Flynn's back injury in the second half. He played through it and was heroic. He just didn't have any help. Oklahoma led by as many as 24. Clearly, the Sooners were ready. Clearly, Syracuse was not.
South Regional Final - No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
Early Take: Arguably the best game of the Elite 8. This will be a matchup between the 2007-08 national player of the year in UNC's Hansbrough and the likely 2008-09 national player of the year in Oklahoma's Griffin. You can imagine that watching those two battle in the paint will be a classic struggle. However, the key will be UNC's Lawson and Ellington against Oklahoma's Willie Warren, Anthony Johnson and Tony Crocker who was 6-11 from 3-point range against Syracuse. Great leadership and great athleticism will be on display. But with a point guard like Lawson, the Tar Heels get the edge.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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