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These 'Cats Can Dance

College basketball: Simon and Bibby help shoot down Tar Heels, 66-58, and Arizona sets sights on first NCAA title.

March 30, 1997|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Too quick, too clutch and simply too tough for mighty North Carolina, Arizona is only one more improbable victory from its first NCAA title.

Just eight days after knocking off No. 1 Kansas, Arizona defeated North Carolina, 66-58, Saturday night behind the shooting of Miles Simon and Mike Bibby.

"As many Final Fours as [North Carolina has] been to and as many times you've seen them playing on TV in the championship, all the good players that have come through," Simon said, "I'm just glad that it's Arizona's time now."

Simon, rejected by North Carolina Coach Dean Smith four years ago, scored 24 points, and Bibby shook off a horrible start to hit four three-point baskets down the stretch as the Wildcats won a game for the first time in three Final Four appearances.

Arizona (24-9), the only non-top-seeded team to reach the Final Four, will play in Monday's championship game against the winner of the Kentucky-Minnesota semifinal played later Saturday.

"They're not afraid of anyone, and they play that way," Arizona Coach Lute Olson said of his players. "I think the Kansas win gave us a confidence that, hey, if we can beat Kansas, we should be able to beat any of the teams we come up against. I don't think our guys are walking with a swagger, but . . . the mind-set we have right now is perfect."

North Carolina (28-7), which won its previous 16 games, shot 31% and committed 17 turnovers. The Tar Heels, who have reached the Final Four 11 times in Smith's 36 years, won't get a chance to bring their coach his third title in the same season in which he broke Adolph Rupp's record for coaching victories.

"We've had a great season, but I didn't tell them that," Smith said when asked what he told his players afterward. "I said they tried hard but they have to look back at this and learn from each experience.

"Arizona did an excellent job with their interior defense. They are very quick. And we just weren't shooting well."

Arizona, which also used its quickness to shock Kansas in the Southeast Regional semifinals, didn't shoot much better--33%. But the Wildcats made shots when it really mattered.

Bibby, a freshman, missed 10 of his first 13 shots but kept firing and finished with 20 points. He made six three-point baskets.

Vince Carter had 21 points, but only five on 2-for-7 shooting in the second half, as North Carolina ended its season the same way it began--with a loss to Arizona.

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