Heels advance after impressive 2nd half, win 85-66

RALEIGH, N.C. – 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.

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.

Box score

Live Game Blog below:

Tar Heels empty the bench, defeat the Friars 85-66.

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11:43 p.m. Joel Berry went coast to coast for a layup after Hicks’ two-handed dunk. Heels up 82-63 late.

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11:37 p.m. Justin Jackson has scored 11 second half points (13 for the game) and he’s scored the last four points for the Heels to make it 76-54. The Heels are on a 19-4 run. That should wrap it up as Dunn is all the offense Providence has.

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11:31 p.m. North Carolina got its largest lead when Isaiah Hicks muscled in to lay it over the rim and was fouled. After his free throw, the Heels led 70-51 but Dunn came back with a three to make it 70-54. Pinson got a rebound follow to make it 72-54.

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11:24 p.m. North Carolina leads 63-50 with less than eight minutes to play. A lot happened over the last few minutes. For one, Bentil fouled out for Providence. He was the only offensive alternative to Dunn, who has four fouls himself. Theo Pinson had to leave the game after banging his head but he appears to be ok. A Paige three and a nifty put-back highlighted the 15-5 run.

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11:09 p.m. Carolina is on an 9-0 run to go up 50-41. After Dunn got loose for a dunk to tie it at 41, Jackson scored on a baseline floater, Berry scored on a drive by layup, 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 picked up his third foul during the barrage.

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11:03 p.m. North Carolina holds a slim 41-39 lead four minutes into the second half. Providence was having trouble getting off a shot. With two seconds left in shot clock, Johnson came up with the ball but his foot touched out of bounds and the ball goes back to the Friars after the first TV timeout of the second half.

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10:59 p.m. North Carolina called timeout, ahead 41-39, after Paige stripped Dunn of the ball but got double-teamed against the sideline. Kris Dunn led a 6-0 run to give Providence a 36-34 lead but the Tar Heels came back with a 7-0 run of their own, highlighted by a Justin Jackson three to go up 41-36.

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Halftime: Kris Dunn missed much of the first half for the Friars with foul trouble but he made his presence known when he was in there. He scored 10 points in eight minutes. Joel Berry is leading Carolina with nine points but he’s only one of three from three-point land. Brice Johnson has eight points for the Heels and he has seven rebounds.

The Tar Heels need to feed the ball more to Johnson and hit three or four triples to win this game. Providence has to feel good about being down by just four when star Kris Dunn has been sitting most of the half with two fouls. Then again Marcus Paige has been out with two fouls, as has Isaiah Hicks, who looked like he was going to be a force before picking up that second foul and taking a seat. Hicks only played six minutes, scoring two points and picking up an assist.

Jackson is just one of five from the floor. They needed more from him, especially with Paige on the bench. The Tar Heels really needed to take advantage of Dunn being out and the Friars shooting only 38 percent. The Tar Heels, whose biggest lead was seven, are leading most every statistical category but only up by four.

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10:30 p.m. North Carolina went on a 9-2 run late in the half to take a 34-30 halftime lead. A pretty fastbreak bucket by Brice Johnson on a nice dish from Justin Jackson with 35 seconds left put the Heels up 34-28. On the way off the court, UNC coach Roy Williams said the Tar Heels had to stop fouling so much and stop making silly turnovers.

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10:23 p.m. Providence called timeout after Carolina scored four straight to go up 32-28. The Friars are two of their last nine shots. Meanwhile, Nate Britt hit two free throws and Joel Berry hit a long two to prompt the timeout.
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10:17 p.m. This game is gettin’ funny but there ain’t nobody laughin’. Strange goings on in this game tied at 28 with less than four minutes to go in the half. It’s physical and there’s a lot of yackin’ and showboating, mostly by Providence. An emotional Kyron Cartwright seemed to start the bad blood when he hit an off balanced bank shot and was fouled. He pranced low in front of the Carolina bench, said something to them and hung his tongue out. Berry followed with a three for Carolina and stared at his defender. Johnson blocked Cartwright’s shot into about the fifth row and let out a yell. Hicks and Paige have two fouls for Carolina and are on the bench. Dunn has two fouls for Providence and is on the bench.
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10:08 p.m. With less than eight minutes to go in the first half, Providence leads 22-21 after outscoring the Tar Heels 8-0. UNC led 21-14 but Providence got hot and the Tar Heels turned the ball over. The Friars hit six of seven shots and scored on seven of eight possessions to catch up. The Heels have turned the ball over five times compared to three for Providence. Also Isaiah Hicks has two fouls.
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9:55 p.m. It’s 15-12 Carolina with 11:59 left in the first half. At the second TV timeout, it’s on between Dunn and Paige. After Brice Johnson and Kris Dunn exchanged baskets twice, Dunn hit a deep three and Paige came right back to hit a deep three.

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9:48 p.m. Heels up 4-3 at the first TV timeout. Both teams are off to slow starts. North Carolina is having a hard time getting the ball down low to the big men. The Heels have already missed three three-point shots. Coach Roy Williams yelled, “Wake up!” to his players. The big matchup of Kris Dunn vs. Marcus Paige hasn’t materialized yet but each has picked up a foul.

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The UNC vs. Providence game at the PNC Arena features a contrast between the Tar Heels’ depth and the Friars’ one-two punch. North Carolina might be the deepest team in the field, while Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil combine to average 37.1 points for Providence — roughly half of the team’s 74-point scoring average.

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