For the game, the Tar Heels (3-1)shot just 37.3 percent from the floor – including an abysmal 6-of-27 from beyond the arc – and 18-of-30 from the charity stripe.
The Sports Illustrated cover jinx struck UNC once again. Hansbrough, who was featured this week on one of several regional copies by the nation’s most recognizable sports periodical, failed to score in double figures for just the second time in his career.
Reyshawn Terry, also depicted, was even less of a factor.
Hansbrough and Terry each converted just two field goals on the night.
Prior to the 2004-05 NCAA championship season, SI featured Rashad McCants on the cover just prior to Santa Clara’s shocking season-opening win over the Tar Heels. However Carolina recovered from the upset in Oakland to run away with the subsequent Maui Invitational and later cut down the nets in St. Louis.
Gonzaga (5-0), 8-1 all-time versus ACC teams, will face surprising Butler in Friday’s final, and Carolina will take on No. 21 Tennessee (4-1) in the consolation match-up at 4:30 p.m.
Historically it’s happened many times to North Carolina – the ’97 NCAA final versus Arizona, the ’93 Preseason NIT semifinal against UMass, to name a couple – when the Tar Heels jumped out to an early lead only to have the opposing coach make key adjustments to which UNC struggled to overcome.
Carolina went up 10-0 in the opening minutes, and then 14-4 when Zags’ coach Mark Few called a time out.
“We just had to slow them down, and we had to get rid of the MSG nerves,” Few said. “Once we got [Josh Heytvelt] out of that first time out, he woke up.”
Heytvelt responded by scoring 14 of his 19 points in the first half to lead the Zags to a 40-37 halftime lead. Led by guards Derek Raivio (21 points), Jeremy Pargo (16) and Matt Bouldin (14), they mounted a 16-point advantage midway through the second half.
“The coach that did the best job was on the other bench,” Roy Williams said. “They were much more intense and sharper. They executed what they wanted to do, and we did not.”
UNC executed its trademark comeback run with an 18-5 edge that pulled the Tar Heels to within 70-68 on a Hansbrough dunk with 4:16 to play. But blown opportunities hamstrung Carolina down the stretch.
A dunk by Brandon Wright, who finished with game-highs of 23 points and 13 rebounds, made it 75-71 with 2:11 remaining. However Raivio answered with an off-balance jumper iced the game.
“I loved the way our kids tried to compete and cut it to two,” Williams said. “We had some opportunities, and it would have been a fun, fun game to come back and win.”