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Off the cuff: That was as good an attack on the zone defense as I've seen a Carolina team accomplish. The Heels moved the ball crisply and found big guys in the lane, who either passed to an open shooter or shot themselves.

And when the Huskies missed, Carolina rebounded. The Heels outrebounded the Huskies 48-24. Washington shot just 38 percent compared to 51 percent for the Tar Heels.

Each team hit nine three-pointers but Carolina did it with 21 shots while it took 29 shots for Washington.

But the big difference came when Maye, Little and, to a lesser extent, Brooks got the ball in the lane.

Little, a yes-sir no-sir kind of guy who made straight As in high school, was not only confident when he got the ball but he was a tad cocky after the game.

"I think that I was really dominating the middle," he said. "Their big men were dropping back in the paint."

That allowed the big men to cleanly get the ball and do something positive with it, fairly close to the hoop.

Coach Roy Williams was encouraging the players to continue to attack the middle of the zone. It kept working.

North Caroina lost out in the NCAAs last year in just the second round. They were determined not to lose time time around.

"We talked about it all summer," UNC's Cam Johnson said.

"To lose the way we did and have Joel and Theo go out that way," he added while shaking his head.

He said they worked hard to get past this point. How much further will the Heels go?

Every game is different and every opponent is so different but the Heels are playing well right now, heading into a game against speedy Auburn where the winner will advance to the Elite Eight.

Tar Heels 81, Washington 59
Maye, Little bust zone as Heels advance

Luke Maye and Nassir Little found holes in the middle of the defense as each scored 20 en route to an 81-59 shellacking of Washington to advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. (3/24)

The Huskies, winners of the Pac-10 regular season, packed into a zone from the start. UNC's Coby White loosened the zone with four threes over a five-minute period in the first half. And then Maye, Little and others attacked the middle.

"The key today was getting it to the middle - that was a soft spot," said UNC's Cam Johnson, who had a team-high seven assists.

When Maye got it, he tended to turn quickly and hit short or mid-range jumpers. When Little got it, he tended to attack the rim and elevate over the defenders for baskets.

"Luke is an intelligent player who finds the holes in the zone really well," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "Nas is gifted around the basket."

He said Little uses his quickness, leaping ability and power to cause opponents' problems. "He can hurt a lot of people inside," Coach Williams said.

Little, who comes off the bench, got a little more playing time than usual as Garrison Brooks spent several minutes in the locker after getting his mouth busted. He had to have stitches and lost a tooth on a play where the offender wasn't even charged with a foul.

After Little put in a follow shot, was fouled and hit the free throw, the Heels had their biggest lead of the first half at 34-20.

Carolina led only 41-33 at the half though as the Heels went through a turnover stretch. The Heels had 10 turnovers, including five out of eight possessions at one stretch.

In the second half, the Heels cut the turnovers in half and shot over 50 percent from the field.

The Huskies, who relied heavily on the three-point shot (they had only three two-point field goals in the second half), briefly cut the deficit to five in the first half. But then, the Heels went on a 13-0 run that set the tone for the second half and all but did in Washington.

Johnson started the stretch with a three from the right corner and then hit a baseline jumper. After Maye hit a three, trailing the fastbreak, the Huskies called a timeout. But it didn't slow the Heels as Brooks bounced an assist to Maye and then Maye hit a 10 footer in the lane.

After White sunk a free throw, Carolin had its biggest lead to that point at 18, 54-36.

It never got closer than 12 from then on out as the Tar Heels worked the lead up to ask many as 25 points.

Joining Little and Maye in double figures were White, who had 17, and Johnson, who had 13.

The Tar Heels, now 29-6, play Auburn Friday evening. Washington, led by Nowell Jaylen's 12 points, ends the season at 28-7.

Box score

UNC's Nassir Little elevated over Washington defenders all day. (UNC Sports Information photo.)

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