MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ty Lawson and North Carolina can make even a good team look helpless.
Lawson scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half, and the top-seeded Tar Heels routed Gonzaga 98-77 in the South Regional on Friday night. They'll play second-seeded Oklahoma on Sunday for a berth in the Final Four.
"We're ecstatic," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "It was a big-time game for us. We had a couple of lulls where we made some mistakes, but basically look at the big picture of work, I thought we played really, really well."
The Tar Heels (31-4) were nearly flawless in the first half, when they led by 17 against the upset-minded Bulldogs. Gonzaga was trying to reach the regional final for the first time since 1999, but North Carolina led by 11 at halftime and put the game away with a 12-0 run in the second.
Tyler Hansbrough added 24 points and 10 rebounds for North Carolina, which won its 99th NCAA tournament game, breaking a tie with Kentucky for the most by any school.
Wayne Ellington scored 19 points and Danny Green added 13 for the Tar Heels (31-4), who reached the regional finals for the third straight year.
"When Danny is hitting from the perimeter, I think we got all our parts and we're going," Ellington said. "Have to respect me and Danny from the perimeter, so we get a lot of easier looks from the inside."
Now, we'll have a regional final with a little Duke-Carolina flavor. Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel used to play for the Blue Devils. He made one of the most famous shots in the Tobacco Road rivalry _ a running buzzer-beater from around 35 feet that tied the teams' 1995 matchup at Duke. The Tar Heels ended up winning in double overtime.
Gonzaga has spent the past decade proving it can play with the nation's top programs, and the Bulldogs (28-6) showed no fear early on. They seemed determined to match the Tar Heels basket for spectacular basket. Green dunked along the baseline, and Josh Heytvelt answered seconds later with an alley-oop dunk. Green made a 3-pointer from the left wing, then Gonzaga's Austin Daye made one of his own at the other end.
At the first television timeout, the Tar Heels were 8-of-10 from the field and the fourth-seeded Bulldogs were 4-of-5. North Carolina led 19-12.
Lawson didn't seem slowed by the toe injury that's been bothering him this month. He breezed past a defender for a layup to make it 23-16, then added an acrobatic layup while being fouled on a fast break to put the Tar Heels ahead 35-25.
For a while it seemed the Tar Heels might go the entire half without a turnover. Ellington finally gave the ball away with an offensive foul with 5:53 to play.
The only blemish for North Carolina in the first half _ 9-of-18 free-throw shooting that enabled the Zags to stay in the game. Gonzaga cut the margin to single digits before Hansbrough scored inside just before the halftime buzzer to make it 53-42.
"If they play like that, they're going to win the national championship," Heytvelt said. "They'd hit every shot, it seemed like. You can't do anything on teams like that."
Lawson shot 6-of-7 in the half, picking up where he left off the previous game, when he scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime in a second-round win over LSU.
"The toe injury might have helped Ty Lawson," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "He's playing at a great pace right now. He's not forcing anything."
The second half didn't start much better for the Zags. Lawson spun to the basket, then dropped the ball off for Deon Thompson, whose layup made it 59-42.
Gonzaga fought back to within 11, forcing North Carolina to call a timeout with 12:27 remaining. The Tar Heels needed less than a minute to score nine straight points. Bobby Frasor made back-to-back 3-pointers _ his only two shots of the game _ and then Ellington added a 3-point play in transition.
A 3-point play by Hansbrough capped a 12-0 run that made it 80-57.
"I just let the game come to me," Hansbrough said. "I didn't want to force anything. I think some other guys are playing well."
North Carolina will go for its 100th NCAA tournament win Sunday. Kentucky has actually won 100 games on the court as well, but two were vacated by the NCAA because of violations.