SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Sean May started and closed for North Carolina with a little help from his mates.
May scored 29 points and Rashad McCants added 21 as the No. 1 Tar Heels got off to a quick start and rallied after intermission for an 88-82 victory over sixth-seeded Wisconsin in the finals of the Syracuse Region.
"Getting the ball inside (to May) was important to us," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Raymond (Felton) and Rashad made some big shots and then we made our free throws."
With the win, North Carolina (31-4) advances to the Final Four for a record 16th time and its first since 2000. It will play Michigan State in the national semifinals on Saturday.
"Raymond, Rashad and I talked when we came here about getting to the Final Four, win the national championship and help the program go back up. And we've done our part," May said.
Williams will be seeking his first national championship in his fifth trip to the Final Four. He went four times with Kansas.
"It's special (to advance to the Final Four), but I loved my 15 years at Kansas, going four times with them," Williams said. "But this is special because I did go to North Carolina and I grew up here."
May had five baskets in the first seven minutes as the Tar Heels jumped to a 20-11 lead. His dunk with 7 1/2 minutes left provided North Carolina its biggest lead of the game, 30-19.
"Rashad told me before the game 'there is no way (Wilkinson) will be able to guard you, he's too little'", May said. "I just tried to use that as motivation to get deep in the paint."
But Wisconsin (25-9) responded by closing the first half with 11 straight points and opening the second with the first five for a 49-44 lead.
"I thought our guys really fought in the first half to get back after it got away from us and go toe-to-toe with them," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "We just couldn't get it over the hump."
But North Carolina stormed back with 14 consecutive points in a three-minute span to take a 58-49 lead with just under 15 minutes left. May scored seven points and McCants added four during the blitz.
"We kept our poise the whole game," Felton said. "The team is going to make their run, especially good runs. They're going to hit shots, but we have to keep our poise and we have to hit shots and make plays, and make our run too."
The Badgers responded with two 3-pointers from Clayton Hanson and nine points from Alando Tucker to pull within 74-73 with 2:40 left. North Carolina's Marvin Williams hit two from the stripe and McCants came up with a big block on a 3-point attempt by Hanson. The Tar Heels worked it inside to May, who converted a jump hook with 1:55 remaining for a five-point lead. The Badgers never had the ball with a chance to tie thereafter.
"(May) had to work hard but he answered the call," Ryan said. "He stayed to the task and their players stayed to the task in making sure he got the ball. I thought we made him take some tough jump hooks, a couple of other shots. In the first half, he got some shots that were too easy."
Tucker jammed an alley-oop feed from Sharif Chambliss before McCants hit a 3-point dagger from the top of the key for an 81-75 edge with 67 seconds left. Raymond Felton took over from there by converting six free throws to seal the victory.
May finished 13-of-19 from the floor with 12 rebounds and Felton contributed 17 points and seven assists for the Tar Heels, who shot 53 percent (34-of-64), committed just nine turnovers and outrebounded the Badgers, 33-29.
Tucker was sensational for the Badgers, scoring 16 of his 25 after intermission. Kammron Taylor came off the bench and scored 16 and Hanson added 15 on five 3-pointers for the Badgers.
Mike Wilkinson had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his last game as Wisconsin failed in its attempt to set a school record with 26 wins.
"We kind of showed that we can play with anybody," Wilkinson said. "