The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team spent part of December getting crushed by Kentucky. January brought humiliation in Miami and Wake Forest. February included being embarrassed in his home court by the Duke and Pittsburgh and demanding extra time to get over the heartbreaking Syracuse.
Then came March. Tar Heels went to Duke and spoiled Mike Krzyzewski’s last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium On March 5, then, in Saturday overtime in Fort Worth, they beat Baylor, the Eastern District number one and the reigning national champion, to advance to the NCAA Tour Round of 16.
Every signature victory is from the bar that can make up for any bad season. But Monday? As Roy Williams, who retired from North Carolina coaching last year but was in the stands on Saturday, might say: “Daggum.”
Eighth seed Tar Heels, who edged out a 25-point lead with less than 11 minutes of play before recovering, meets UCLA on Friday in Philadelphia.
They—and any other team left in the men’s championship this year—could be hard-pressed, though, to compose an action of greater suspense than dropping Baylor 93-86, the number one seed to lose this year.
Yes, Baylor won with the tip, and thanks to sinking Kendall Brown in a quick break, he made a 4-0 lead every 68 seconds. Then UNC took it over and didn’t even allow the game to tie until 15.8 seconds remained, and Baylor was improbably wiped out by a performance by Tar Heels that seemed more likely to end up in the record books than overtime.
Freshman Dontrez Styles unlocked overtime with a 3 pointer and UNC – this time – managed to hold out.
“It was just the thing,” said Armando Bacot, one of the North Carolina stars. “It was definitely exhausting.”
In the first half—and later by driving 13 heels—Baylor struggled hard behind the arc and his turnarounds boosted Carolina’s rise and formed 15 of the Tar Heels’ 42 points before the break.
So did RJ Davis, a sophomore from White Plains, NY, who scored 30 points to lead UNC by the end of the day.
The chaos of Saturday’s game was, in many ways, a fitting sign of North Carolina’s debut campaign under Hubert Davis, who succeeded Williams.
The Tar Heels started to rise after losing 9 points to Pittsburgh on February 16 and have lost only once since then, to Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. Krzyzewski admired them this month, once his own team, then ranked fourth in the country, was played by players like Bacot, a 6-foot-10 junior who collects rebounds enthusiastically from an Internal Revenue Service agent, and Brady Mannick, who moved From Oklahoma and entered the Saturday game, leading North Carolina with three throws.
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“We knew this team’s potential coming up this season, and we just wanted to change it up,” RJ Davis said on Friday. “We knew after losing to Pete, that this wasn’t the way we wanted to play. So from that moment on, I think we turned it around and started competing. Everyone bought their roles and that’s kind of what we’ve been buying.”
With the help of a fatal mistake, Baylor was able to buy in the majesty of being the number one seed. There’s only so much the team can do, though, in an afternoon when they are 25 years behind.
At least Waco-based Baylor avoided overlapping insults on the long trip home after a heavy loss, and thanks to the victory over Norfolk State on Thursday, it’s a shame for being the first champ to leave in championship history.
Very little went as the Bears had hoped.
Baylor couldn’t manage a basket for close to four minutes into the second half. UNC took that break and scored 13 points, resulting in a 24 point build.
Much of that came from Manek, whose nine first-half points looked small at the end of the second half, when he picked up 17. He almost certainly would have finished with over 26 points, but he was sent off with just over 10 minutes to play after a blatant foul.
His dismissal proved to be the catalyst for the kind of Baylor attack that, less than two hours earlier, would have looked like a sure-fire route for them to Philadelphia.
Shot after shot, opportunity after opportunity seized, the Bears looked like the team most expected to swing through Dickies Arena and take the lead.
“We knew we as a team weren’t going to give up, and we decided to put in a lot more pressure and be assertive there,” said Adam Flagler, a Baylor guard. “So once we got into those diamonds and traps, we were able to get some stops and get some easy looks, so we started running.”
Hubert Davis said Baylor’s late success in pressing North Carolina had two consequences: It forced Tar Heels to speed up and led to flip-flops.
“They didn’t want to go home,” he said of Baylor.
In the end, with less than 16 seconds remaining, the Bears tie the match at 80, where the score will remain until overtime.
Indicator 3 by Styles to start allows UNC to take back control. Bakut made a free throw. Baylor effectively hung until 78 points remained, with the Tar Heel rising by 6 after a series of free throws and passes from both teams.
Then, time lapsed further, and the score didn’t change much, with Baylor, taking a share of the Big 12 Conference’s regular season title, squandering opportunities that could have brought her close to saving an afternoon and a season.
“At the end of the day it’s hard to hit the ball in that second game, we both don’t have deep benches and the numbers usually back that up,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “But they had two guys out of the gate shooting really well.”
Drew said he thought his team showed “the heart of a champion” by orchestrating the comeback as she did.
But North Carolina, a team he probably won’t forget not too long ago, became the program to be played on in March.
Michigan found just enough magic in time to beat Tennessee.
Put away all the chaos of the Michigan season. Ugly Clash in Wisconsin And the ensuing stoppages, snappy losses, and a quick exit from the Big Ten Conference — because the Wolverines suddenly win when it counts.
Michigan, seeded No. 11 in the Southern District, climbed late in the rally in Indianapolis on Saturday to oust third-seeded Tennessee 76-68.
Tennessee, which had a well-timed winning streak during the Southeast Conference championship, wasn’t controlling the game the way it would like. His lead did not exceed 6 points, and he missed 16 of 18 3-point attempts. Michigan, next time playing in San Antonio, was barely setting records behind the arc, going 6 for 16, but those points proved crucial. So did the free throws: Eight of Michigan’s last 10 points came from the goal line.
Hunter Dickinson scored 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wolverines. Eli Brooks added another 23 points for Michigan in a game with dozens of lead changes.
Michigan showed weaknesses, though, turning the ball 15 times, more than twice as many volunteers, and a 20-point increase over Tennessee.
Kansas, the other top seed, passed with a dread from Creighton.
Baylor may have lost, but the Big 12 Conference is happy to have avoided two defeats: Kansas, a strong league player and another top-seeded in the championship, fended off Creighton, 79-72.
But the Jayhawks, whose roster includes seven seniors and who went up by 9 points on Saturday, have at times looked like they’re moving to Chicago, where they’ll play next. Trey Alexander, a freshman at Creighton University, hit a long 3-pointer over Remy Martin to leave his team only 3 points behind. 73-72.
A faulty pass by Alexander gave Ochai Agbaji, the 12th player of the year who will finish on Saturday with 15 points and eight rebounds, a chance to steal, score and rebuild KS3’s lead.
The just-in-time defense kept Creighton, who was playing without a defensive anchor after an injury Thursday, from scoring again, while Kansas used four free throws to take his tally to 79.
He will face Kansas Providence in the Round of 16.
Wearing UCLA defense leaks from St. Mary’s.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin came to Westwood determined to focus on defense. And while Jaime Jaques Jr., Johnny Guzhang, Jules Bernard and Tiger Campbell can excel, the Bruins are at their best when they snarl and catch without the ball.
The Bruins’ defense cemented their memorable top-four run to the Final Four last year, moving them two wins away from the same destination on Saturday as St Mary’s rolled, 72-56.
St Mary’s made seven of her first 10 field shoots and had a 7-point lead. Then, after UCLA gathered during a timeout of less than 12:00 in the first half, the game suddenly turned — certainly not by accident.
The Bruins pressed, Gaels kept 3-for-16 shots through the rest of the inning, and extended this defensive effort through the rest of the game. As the second half deepened, the constant pressure seemed to erode on Saint Mary’s. Sometimes the Gael seems to be exhausted.
The biggest concern for UCLA came with 6:58 remaining when Jackies, who has sprained his ankle in the past, rotated his right ankle while fighting for a rebound.
He didn’t play the rest of the game, and his availability will become a major storyline with Bruins moving to play North Carolina in Philadelphia on Friday. This will be Sweet 16’s fifth appearance at UCLA in the past nine years. The match, which features two schools who have amassed 17 national titles, will undoubtedly be one of the standout games of the weekend.
After playing in the shadow of Gonzaga for years in the West Coast Conference, the Gaels (26-8) sent notice they could be a tough opponent for UCLA by utterly destroying Indiana in their first round game Thursday night. Backed up by a 34-5 sprint to finish the first half, they managed an easy win 82-53.
But Indiana, and a few others, are playing the kind of tough defense that Cronin demands. UCLA (27-7) is now 22-0 this season when it holds competitors under 66 points.
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