160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – Brandan Wright and top-seeded North Carolina almost waited too long to make their move. Down by 16 points early in the second half, the Tar Heels suddenly shifted into another gear and startled Southern California 74-64 Friday night in the East Regional semifinals. Despite off games by Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, the Tar Heels (31-6) saved themselves and set up a regional final Sunday for college basketball fans to savor: North Carolina vs. Georgetown, a rematch of the 1982 championship game that Michael Jordan won in the closing seconds. Fifth-seeded USC (25-12) was putting on a dunking exhibition and led 49-33 with 17:42 left before it all fell apart. Trojans coach Tim Floyd threw his program onto the court after a call in the final minute, and was whistled for a technical foul. By then, Wright and his teammates had already done plenty to frustrate Floyd’s team and were well on their way to their seventh straight victory. Wright scored two straight baskets on offensive rebounds to get the Tar Heels within 57-49, then the freshman was a key part of a 13-0 run that put them ahead for the first time since the opening minute. “It was a fantastic comeback to say the least,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I have a great deal of confidence in my team. … I knew we wouldn’t give up.” North Carolina reached the round of eight for the second time under Williams, who won the 2005 title with the Tar Heels. Earlier at the Meadowlands, Georgetown beat Vanderbilt 66-65 on a last-second shot. Wright finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. He somehow offset Hansbrough’s 1-for-6 shooting for five points and Lawson’s four points. Freshman Taj Gibson had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Trojans. Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt and Gibson took turns throwing down dunks in the first half as the Trojans more than matched North Carolina’s up-tempo style. Floyd said his team plays with “youthful exuberance” and it showed from the get-go. Pointing their index fingers, slapping hands after big plays and popping the “USC” on their jerseys, they looked like schoolyard kids having fun. Floyd got into the act, too, hollering, “Go get it! Go get it!” during loose balls. Williams could barely watch on the other bench, putting his hands on his head and turning away after an airball. The Trojans scored the last eight points of the first half for a 42-33 lead, then scored the first seven after the break, capped by Lodrick Stewart’s 3. At that point, the Tar Heels trailed by 16 points and were in serious trouble. That is, until they started playing the kind of basketball that has consistently made them among the biggest winners in the sport. The Trojans attacked inside early, taking it right at Hansbrough. The rugged 6-foot-9 sophomore ripped out his mouthpiece at one point, upset that the Trojans were getting the better of him. In the second half, though, the Tar Heels had their way inside. They dominated the second-half as Southern California seemed powerless to stop the surge. The Trojans were trying to reach the round of eight for the first time since 2001. Known primarily as a football school, a win over the Tar Heels would’ve clearly boosted their national profile. “Winning and doing well in this tournament will do that, and that includes beating North Carolina,” Southern California athletic director Mike Garrett, a former Heisman Trophy winner, said right before tip-off. “But it’s more than just beating North Carolina.” It was not to be, despite such a strong start. North Carolina led for a grand total of 17 seconds in the first half. That was at 1-0 on a foul shot by Marcus Ginyard, who started when Reyshawn Terry was slowed by strep throat.
England have long stuttered on the big stage and they last reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2006, when Beckham was captain. Their only World Cup final was way back in 1966, when they beat Germany at Wembley.“I believe Argentina will play against England in the final,” Beckham predicted at an event to promote China’s largest collegiate football league.“I think obviously my choice would be England to win the competition, but that’s me being biased and passionate about my country,” he added.But the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder, a veteran of three World Cups, warned that the road ahead looked hard for Gareth Southgate’s team.“I’m very happy that we won the first game in the group,” he said. “England is a very young team, they don’t have a lot of experience yet and the journey of the World Cup will become harder and harder because there are many good teams in the tournament.”Beckham’s assessment may also have been influenced by the struggles of some of the top teams in the early games, including Mexico’s defeat of defending champions Germany.Argentina, who could meet England in the semi-finals or final, drew 1-1 with Iceland in their first game as Messi, their talisman, missed a penalty.Improving Chinese football at the club and national level has been a priority for President Xi Jinping, who aims to make his country a global power in the sport.But it is a Herculean task for China, who have only ever qualified for one World Cup, in 2002 — when they exited without scoring a goal.Beckham said the world’s most populous country, currently 75th in the FIFA rankings, is heading in the right direction — but that there was still a long way to go.“This is where it starts, with universities, with young children — to educate the children to become professional and then become leaders in the game,” said Beckham, who played an exhibition game with Chinese youngsters.“In the future this country has a real opportunity to become one of the powerhouses in the sport, but this takes a lot of investment and hard work,” he said.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000David Beckham played three World Cups with England. © AFP / FRED DUFOURBeijing, China, Jun 21 – Former captain David Beckham has tipped England to play Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the World Cup final, reflecting rising optimism about the Three Lions’ chances after a positive start in Russia.Beckham was speaking at a promotional event in China after England beat Tunisia 2-1 in their opening game, boosting their chances of reaching the knockout rounds.