Wright has already forgotten last matchup with UNC

David Cassilo

When Villanova and North Carolina were officially set to face each other in the Final Four, many Wildcat fans were immediately reminded of the last time these two teams met. In the Sweet 16 of the 2005 NCAA tournament, UNC beat Villanova 67-66 en route to its national championship. However, the game had one of the most controversial finishes in NCAA history.

With Villanova trailing 66-63, guard Allan Ray made a move to the basket, drew contact from defender Melvin Scott and scored. A whistle right after the play had everyone believing that Ray would have a chance to tie the game with a free throw. However, Ray was called for traveling, effectively ending Villanova’s hopes of an upset.

Although the game has many Wildcats fans thirsty for revenge, Head Coach Jay Wright has apparently forgotten it altogether.

“I never thought of that,” Wright said. “I didn’t even think of the connection.”

He may have put it behind him now, but following the game in 2005, Wright was as crushed as you would expect.

“We came here to win the tournament,” Wright said after the 2005 game. “I really believe that we were good enough to win this tournament. We will definitely look back on this season and be proud of what we accomplished. It just hurts at the time.”

Much like their coach, Wright’s former players from that 2005 team are more focused on Saturday’s game than what happened four seasons ago.

“None of those guys said that to me,” Wright said. “They are so proud of these guys.”

The last game between North Carolina and Villanova may not remind anyone associated with the team of Saturday’s contest, but Wright did say it reminded him of something else.

“That game for them might have been like our Pittsburgh game,” he said. “That was a scare for them, and that was a big scare for us.”

Wright got a scare even before the Pittsburgh game started when he saw that one of the referees was Tom O’Neill – the same official who made the traveling call against Ray. It was the first time Wright had even see him since the UNC game. Despite being “shocked” when he heard the news, Wright was pleased by O’Neill’s performance in their Pittsburgh game.

“He did a good job. We said hello to each other,” Wright said. “During the game we didn’t get into anything. I purposely tried to stay away.”

The win allowed even the biggest Wildcat fans to ease their animosity toward O’Neill, but for ‘Nova Nation, a win against North Carolina may be what is needed to put 2005 behind them – just like their coach.