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Off the cuff:

It was an emotional end to the Tar Heels season as Cam Johnson, Luke Maye and Kenny Williams played their last games. And UNC coach Roy Williams thought he let his players down.

"I didn't get my team as prepared as much as Bruce (Pearl) got his team prepared," Coach Williams said. "But he doesn't love his players any more than I do (mine)."

Obviously tinged with hyperbole, Coach Willliams said he would coach this group of players "for nothing."

Immediately after the game, Coach Williams said he told his players than he loved them, that it had been a great season and that he wished he could have helped them more.

This sort of thing happens quite a bit, especially during these days of three pointers. All the teams left are talented and can get hot. Auburn got hot, whether they were covered or not.

Yes, Carolina could have played better and certainly could have shot better (just seven of 28 from three for instance, compared to 17 of 37 for Auburn) but teams, especially blue bloods like Carolina, run into motivated teams that get hot and are tough to defeat.

My guess is that Auburn won't go any further. This is the first time in 33 years that they've gone to the Elite 8. Perhaps their best player, Chuma Okeke, who led all scorers with 20 points, was injured late in the game and appears to be out for the rest of the tournament.

Combine the hot three-point shooting with Carolina having two key players under the weather with flu-like symptoms and it makes for a tall order.

In the press room after the game, Maye and Williams (Johnson was busy throwing up) both felt they didn't guard the threes as well as they could but that Auburn just got hot and kept that momentum going.

The 17 three pointers were the most scored against a Carolina team in the Roy Williams era.

So, TV associates don't get the Carolina-Duke matchup they would have liked. And a new era begins at Carolina as their core is gone. And perhaps more than the core is gone if Coby White and Nassir Little decide to go pro early.

Both would benefit in coming back for another one or two - and so would Carolina.

Auburn 97, Tar Heels 80
Heels' season ends amid raining threes

After an even first half, Auburn blitzed North Carolina with 12 three pointers in 18 attempts in the second half to blow past the Tar Heels 97-80 and end their season in disappointing fashion. (3/29)

The Tigers advance to the Elite 8 after sinking 17 total three pointers and scoring 19 points off 14 UNC turnovers.

After leading by as many as five points in the first half, Auburn scored six straight in the last minute of the first half to take a 41-39 lead at the break.

Surprisingly being outscored in the paint in the first half 24-12, North Carolina actually was in good shape down by just two. The Tar Heels have often come out energized in the second half this season and taken control of games.

Instead, Auburn extended its streak. After two Tiger threes and a two in the first minute and a half on the second half to make it 49-39, UNC coach Roy Williams uncharacteristically called a timeout to try to halt the run.

Carolina cut the deficit to six at 60-54 with 13:39 left after senior Luke Maye hit a hook follow.

But Danjel Purifoy came off the Auburn bench to can three three-pointers in just over a minute to stretch the lead out to 73-57 with just under 10 minutes to go.

If that weren't bad enough, Anfernee McLemore, one of eight different Tigers who hit threes, banked in a wild three to extend the lead to 76-57.

The Tar Heels never got closer than 10 the rest of the way. While Coach Williams refused to use it as an excuse, it must be said that grad senior Cam Johnson, Carolina's leading scorer, was playing sick as was freshman Nassir Little, who had been Carolina's best player in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Williams said that Little, who had two potential dunks blocked, didn't have the lift he normally has and that Johnson was "just not the same Cam."

Johnson was throwing up after the game. Both players had fevers earlier in the week.

Nonetheless, Johnson scored 15 points but hit only two of seven three pointers. Freshman Coby White also tallied 15 but he was an even worse zero of seven from beyond the arc. Seniors Luke Maye and Kenny Williams, who was especially distraught when the outcome became obvious, rounded out the double figure scoring with 13 and 10 points.

The Tar Heels end the season 29-7 despite winning 17 of their last 20 games with the other losses coming to teams that were No.1 in the nation at the time - fellow ACC foes Virginia and Duke.

Box score

UNC's Cam Johnson fought sickness to score 15 points. (UNC Sports Information photo.)

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