UNC rallies to defeat Arkansas, 72-65

Arkansas' Manuale Watkins (21) and North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) chase a loose ball during the first half Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WNCN/AP) — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scored 12 unanswered points in the closing minutes to surge past Arkansas in a 72-65 win Sunday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina was down 65-60 with about three minutes to play, but managed to hold off the Razorbacks while hitting key free throws and much-needed shots down the stretch.

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UNC led 30-13 after a dominating start only to see No. 8 seeded Arkansas battle back before halftime, with just a 38-33 lead for North Carolina at the half.

The Tar Heels now advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

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Kennedy Meeks had 16 points and a crucial tip-in with 44.2 seconds left to help North Carolina barely avoid the huge upset.

Justin Jackson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (29-7), including the dunk that capped a game-closing 12-0 run by the South Region’s No. 1 seed to help it survive a wild game.

Isaiah Hicks came up big late, too, with a dunk and four free throws in the final 2 minutes to help UNC survive.

No. 1 seed North Carolina next faces Butler.

The ACC had nine teams invited to the NCAA Tournament, but seven of them already have lost.

North Carolina also avoided becoming the second No. 1 seed to exit this tournament. Defending national champion Villanova, the No. 1 seed in the East Region, lost to Wisconsin on Saturday.

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