History lingers over North Carolina-Villanova matchup

The last time Villanova and North Carolina met on a basketball court, the result was an indelible piece of NCAA Tournament history.

Kris Jenkins sank buzzing-beating 3-pointer, lifting the Wildcats to a 77-74 win in the 2016 national championship game at Houston.

No. 14 North Carolina gets a rematch with Villanova on Thursday in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

The history between North Carolina and Villanova extends beyond the 2016 title game. The sides also met in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2009 and 2013, all wins by the Tar Heels.

The 2009 game was a Final Four contest in Detroit, and North Carolina beat Michigan State for the national title two days later.

On Wednesday, the Tar Heels (4-0) topped Northern Iowa 91-69, while the Wildcats (4-1) outlasted Texas Tech 85-69.

North Carolina trailed by six points at halftime, then opened the second half with a 34-6 run and went on to lead by as much as 24 points.

A noticeable change in the lineup for the Tar Heels to start that second half was the insertion of Jae’Lyn Withers, a 6-foot-9 graduate transfer from Louisville. Withers played a season-high 21 minutes against Northern Iowa and finished with season highs in points (11), assists (two) and rebounds (four) while shooting 4-for-5 from the floor.

“I always tell them that their job is that when an opportunity comes, be ready,” third-year Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. “All our guys have responded in that way. I don’t know when they’re going to get that chance. But when they get it, they have to be ready. And J-Wit really stepped up today.”

In three seasons at Louisville, Withers averaged eight points and 5.6 rebounds per game while playing an average of 22.7 minutes.

North Carolina also shot much better from 3-point range in the second half, going 9-for-13 from deep after halftime after going 3-for-13 in the first frame. As part of his 16-point, 10-rebound performance, Harrison Ingram knocked down four 3-pointers.

Armando Bacot still leads North Carolina in scoring and rebounding through four games, averaging 19.5 points and 12 boards a game.

Villanova got past Texas Tech behind 19 points from Eric Dixon and 18 points from Justin Moore. The Wildcats impressed in the paint, outscoring the Red Raiders 26-14. Villanova shot 9-for-24 from 3-point range, but also allowed Texas Tech to knock down 14 of 36 shots from deep.

“I thought they made some tough shots,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “Some guys that hadn’t been making shots made them today. That happens. But I thought we kept playing hard, grinding it out defensively, and did a good job on the glass.”

Moore leads Villanova in scoring this season at 16.4 points per game. Dixon averages 10.8 points. Tyler Burton leads the team in rebounding at 7.6 boards per game. Burton had just five points and five rebounds against Texas Tech.

Four players off Villanova’s bench scored Wednesday, totaling 26 points.

The game will mark the first meeting between North Carolina and Villanova since Davis and Neptune took over for Hall of Fame head coaches Roy Williams and Jay Wright, respectively.