North Carolina guard Ed Cota says there's nothing planned about these big second-half performances.
For the second straight game, the senior came up big in the final 20 minutes and this time it meant an 85-79 victory over Georgetownon Tuesday night and a berth in the Maui Invitational championship game for the fourth-ranked Tar Heels.
"They played a great first half and we played a terrible first half," Cota said, referring to the Hoyas' 11-point halftime lead. "I was trying some things that weren't working and was rushing shots."
Cota was 1-for-6 from the field in the first half, had just two assists and committed five turnovers. He took over the 82-65 opening-round win over Southern California with a great second half and did it again in Game 2.
"Ed did a really good job of getting the tempo going in the second half and our defense did a better job of rebounding and getting the break going," Tar Heels coach Bill Guthridge said. "Georgetown did a great job of keeping us standing around in the first half and not getting the ball inside."
The Tar Heels (2-0) will meet No. 22 Purdue, which beat No. 6 Florida 79-68, in Wednesday night's championship game. It will be the third straight year the teams have met in a preseason tournament. They played in the final of the Great Alaska Shootout two years ago and the semifinals of the Preseason NIT last year with the Tar Heels winning both.
"I guess we'll have to start comparing schedules to make sure this doesn't keep happening," Guthridge said.
North Carolina didn't seal the win until the final seconds. Anthony Perry's 3-pointer with 22 seconds left brough Georgetown within 81-79. Freshman Joseph Forte made two free throws with 17 seconds left, and following a missed 3 by Kevin Braswell of the Hoyas, Max Owens sealed the win for the Tar Heels with a dunk with four seconds left.
"We knew we could run our offense against them and we did for most of the game," Braswell said. "We ran it right until the end."
It didn't look like North Carolina would get the chance to advance to the final when Georgetown (2-1) took a 26-13 lead with 6:38 left in the first half. The Tar Heels drew to 32-26 with 1:15 left on a rebound dunk by Brendan Haywood, but the Hoyas closed the half with a 5-0 run to lead 37-26.
Cota, who had a great second half in the Tar Heels' 82-65 opening-round win over Southern California, had five points in an 11-0 run to start the second half against Georgetown. But the Hoyas, using their size inside, hung tough and exchanged leads with North Carolina until there was five minutes to play.
Cota made two free throws with 5:03 left to give the Tar Heels the lead for good at 64-62.
"Cota's good. He's experienced and I think his biggest asset is he can penetrate and finish," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick said. "I thought in the first half we did a better job but in the second half he did a better job of not turning the ball over."
Center Brendan Haywood, who was saddled with foul trouble in the second half, had 20 points for the Tar Heels. Forte, who had an impressive college debut with 24 points Monday, had 17 points and eight rebounds.
"We don't pay attention to points," Guthridge said. "Joseph's done a very good job. He's been solid defensively and he has hit the open shots."
Perry finished with 18 points, Braswell had 17 and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje had 16 for Georgetown, which beat Memphis 71-55 in the opening round.
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