DETROIT - The effort always worked. The arithmetic never did.
With just under five minutes left in last night's national semifinal, North Carolina had attempted 21 three pointers, Villanova 25. The Tar Heels had made 11, the Wildcats three. The margin on the scoreboard was 18 points. The margin from the three-point line was 21 points.
Effort can overcome many things. It cannot overcome that.
And, with just three teams still in play for the 2009 national championship, it was not going to work for Villanova, the 63rd team to leave the 65-team NCAA Tournament. That the Cats got this far is part of a quite amazing bigger picture.
This 83-69 Carolina win was about long shots made and long shots missed, a snapshot over 40 minutes. Was it Ford Field? Was it UNC's defense? Was it Final Four nerves? Was it too few drives to the rim and too many launches from distance?
Probably some of all that.
Ford Field, for sure.
All of these Villanova players were here last year for that Sweet 16 loss to eventual national champion Kansas. They didn't make any threes (or much of anything else) that night either.
In two games at Ford Field, Villanova is 47-for-138 overall (34.1 percent) and 8-for-44 (18.2 percent) from the arc. Last night, it was 26-for-79 (32.9 percent) and 5-for-27 (18.5 percent).
For the game, UNC outscored `Nova from the two lines by a total of 28 points, 18 from the arc and 10 from the foul line. The miracle was that Villanova was always sort of within shouting distance where a great finish could have gotten them there.
But every time you thought that was possible, Wayne Ellington (five treys) Danny Green (four treys) or Ty Lawson (two treys) would knock in another deflating bomb. In the end, it was all just too much to overcome.
``You don't have to make shots to win a ballgame,'' said Villanova's super tough sophomore Corey Fisher. ``You can go get stops, rebound, do the little things,''
That would work against most opponents, just not this opponent.
Not on a night when Fisher, Scottie Reynolds and Dwayne Anderson combine to shoot 13-for-49.
``They just hit shots,'' Anderson said. ``As a player, certain nights you shoot well, other nights you don't. That's something that we try to pride ourselves on. Even when shots don't fall, we still try to find a way to win. Today, we didn't a find a way to win.''
Asking why shots don't go in is like asking for the secret to life. Sometimes, they just don't.
``For a player, that's very tough (when shots don't fall),'' Anderson said. ``But that's something that I learned over four years, that you still have to have the confidence. For example, the great players, they can miss all game, but they still want to take that last shot.''
Shots go in. Shots stay out.
You win. You lose.
You get to the Final Four. You have that forever.