NEW YORK (AP)—Gonzaga was looking for a big victory in the post Adam Morrison era. The Zags got it.
Derek Raivio scored 21 points to help Gonzaga upset No. 2 North Carolina 82-74 in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals Wednesday night.
Despite losing Morrison to the NBA after last season, Gonzaga didn’t seem fazed playing against a top program on a big stage at Madison Square Garden.
“A lot of people doubt the play of Gonzaga now that Adam is gone and we’ve just been preparing for a moment like this,” Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo said. “We took advantage of it today.”
The Bulldogs (5-0) advanced to the championship game Friday night against Butler. In the first semifinal, Julian Betko scored 11 of his career-high 15 points in a decisive second-half run to give Butler a 56-44 victory over No. 22 Tennessee.
“It was a great night for our team and our program,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Any time you can beat a program and a team like Carolina, that’s a great thing.”
Trailing 65-50 with 11:52 left in the game, the Tar Heels (3-1) used an 18-5 run to get to 70-68 on Tyler Hansbrough’s putback dunk with 4:16 left.
Gonzaga didn’t fold. Pargo scored a basket and was fouled to push the lead back to five.
“The opportunity presented itself to get to the basketball and lay it in, so I just took advantage of it,” Pargo said.
North Carolina could get no closer than four points the rest of the way.
“That was a must stop,” Hansbrough said. “We didn’t get it and gave the momentum back.”
The teams traded free throws, and Brandan Wright’s dunk made it 75-71 with 2:11 left. Raivio answered with a jumper to extend the lead to six. His free throw with 38 seconds left iced the game.
Josh Heytvelt added 19 points and eight rebounds for Gonzaga. Pargo finished with 16 points.
Wright led the Tar Heels with 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“He’s going to be a very good player,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “We’ve got to learn it’s going to be a long season.”
Bobby Frasor and Ty Lawson added 11 points each.
“We didn’t execute,” Frasor said. “It’s hard to make a comeback when you can’t get guys to make a play.”
Hansbrough, the preseason All-America selection, didn’t get many good looks at the basket. He scored just nine points on 2-of-5 shooting.
“We did a very poor job of giving him the basketball,” Williams said. “He probably did the least effective job he’s maybe ever done as far as moving without the basketball.”
The Tar Heels shot just 37 percent from the field (25-for-68), including only 31 percent in the second half (11-for-35).
North Carolina advanced to New York by rallying to beat Winthrop. The Tar Heels had been 16-2 in the Preseason NIT before losing to Gonzaga.
North Carolina jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first 2:24 before Gonzaga rallied behind Heytvelt to take a 40-37 halftime lead. Heyvelt’s layup with 1:10 left gave the Zags a 40-33 advantage. The sophomore, who is the Bulldogs leading scorer, finished the half with 14 points.
The game marked the first meeting between North Carolina and Gonzaga.