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Off the cuff: Another slow start to an NCAA Tournament game that turns into a blow out.

When Carolina got up 21-14 - after UNC coach Roy Williams yelled "wake up!" to his players - I thought the Tar Heels might get an easy win for a change.

But after an 8-0 Providence run, the game went back and forth for the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half.

Carolina has become a team of runs - and allowing runs. Providence ran out of runs as they ran out of scoring. The Friars' two top scorers were in foul trouble and finally Carolina's superior depth paid off.

The Tar Heels got it going in the second half and really showed some toughness. Perhaps against Indiana, they'll get it going from the start. If they don't start playing for 40 minutes, it will eventually catch up with them.


Tar Heels 85, Providence 66
Heels advance after strong 2nd half

North Carolina moved to 30-6 with an impressive second half showing to defeat Providence 85-66 and advance to the Sweet Sixteen to play Indiana. (3/19)

Brice Johnson led five Tar Heels in double figures with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Carolina was ahead just 34-30 at the half but came up with a 51-point second half. It was defense once again that got the offense going in the second half as the Heels got stops on one end and scored on the other.

There were seven ties and seven lead changes before UNC took over. With the score tied at 41 all, Carolina scored nine straight to go up 50-41 and the Heels never trailed again.

After Providence’s Kris Dunn got loose for a dunk to tie it at 41, UNC’s Justin Jackson scored on a baseline floater, Joel Berry scored on a drive-by layup, Isaiah Hicks hit a spinning jumper and finally Johnson spun past his defender on the baseline to dunk it and get fouled. He hit the free throw to make it 50-41. Dunn, who sat much of the first half with two fouls, picked up his third foul during the barrage.

The lead dwindled to five at one point midway through the second half but a Marcus Paige three and four straight free throws from Johnson got the lead back up and the baskets started coming easier.

Isaiah Hicks, who scored 13 points on a perfect shooting night, muscled in to lay it up over the rim and was fouled. After his free throw, the Heels were in command at 70-51 with 5:51 left in the game. A couple of free throws from Justin Jackson, who scored 15 points (13 in the second half), gave the Heels their largest lead of the game at 76-54.

Carolina outscored Providence in the paint 46-18, and outrebounded the Friars 37-20.

Providence’s two best scorers – Dunn and Ben Bentil – were both in foul trouble for much of the game. The two combined for 50 of the Friars’ 66 points in 58 minutes of play. Bentil fouled out fairly late in the game and Dunn finished with four fouls.

UNC coach Roy Williams said the Heels were out of sync for much of the first half as the big men weren’t moving enough to get open. The Heels relied on jump shots much of the half but did manage a 34-30 halftime lead. He challenged the team as a whole to do the little things and he challenged individual players, such as Isaiah Hicks, who had zero rebounds in the first half but finished with seven.

“They scored the first six points of the second half and then, after that, we were really good,” Williams said.

“We have big-time dreams and goals,” he said. “We have the opportunity to see what’s going to happen in the next two weeks.”

Carolina takes on Indiana in Philadelphia on Friday night for a chance to reach the Elite 8.


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