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Carolina brings in graduate transfers as offensive reinforcements

With much of its offense moving on to the NFL, North Carolina has brought in reinforcements in the form of four graduate transfers. The offensive line, including the tight ends, was already the strongest part of the offense coming into 2017. But now they’ve added Cam Dillard, who played at Florida and projects as the starting center. Also, Khaliel Rodgers, who started nine games during his injury-plagued career at Southern Cal, is competing for time at the guard position. “They’re both really good guys off the field and we’re happy to have them,” said senior tackle Bentley Spain, who added […]

With much of its offense moving on to the NFL, North Carolina has brought in reinforcements in the form of four graduate transfers.

The offensive line, including the tight ends, was already the strongest part of the offense coming into 2017. But now they’ve added Cam Dillard, who played at Florida and projects as the starting center. Also, Khaliel Rodgers, who started nine games during his injury-plagued career at Southern Cal, is competing for time at the guard position.

“They’re both really good guys off the field and we’re happy to have them,” said senior tackle Bentley Spain, who added that the offensive linemen have already been bonding through non-football related activities including a pool party.

“The good thing about our o-line is that we’re not the kind of guys who are flashy and want glam,” he said. “At the end of the day if you win the job, you win the job, if you don’t, you don’t. You can’t be angry at someone personally who got something that you didn’t.”

Some players may also share time at positions, like tight ends Brandon Fritts, a junior, and Carl Tucker, a sophomore. Both did well last season and are likely to play bigger roles in the offense.

The third graduate transfer, Stanton Truitt from Auburn, could see a lot of time at running back depending on the progress of sophomore Jordon Brown, the only returning runner, who had only 20 carries a year ago and the development of freshman Michael Carter, who was the 2016 USA Florida Offensive Player of the Year in high school.

Truitt ran for 215 yards and scored three times for Auburn in two seasons there.

Fedora said all the backs are good runners but playing time will come down to how quickly they learn the protections, the blocking schemes.

The fourth offensive graduate transfer has gotten the most attention but he’s been in the fold for the shortest amount of time. In hopes of replacing Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, Brandon Harris transferred from LSU, where he had lost his starting job.

Harris started every game as a sophomore and played in 25 games during his career with LSU. He lost his starting job last season in Week 2. After graduating this summer, he is eligible to play immediately at Carolina as a graduate transfer.

“We wanted someone with experience because we don’t have any quarterbacks with experience,” Fedora said. “Whether he’s just in the room or on the practice field or actually playing, we needed some experience.”

Nathan Elliott is the only returner who has experience on the college level as the lefty completed eight of nine passes for 55 yards a season ago. Coming out of spring practice, he probably had the lead over redshirt freshmen Logan Byrd and Chazz Surratt.

Elliott throws well and makes good decisions, Fedora said, but while he can run the ball, he’s not fast.

Surratt, on the other hand, is fast and a tremendous athlete with a strong arm, Federa said, and he has a chance to be really good – the implication being that he’s not there yet.

Byrd is big and strong with a good arm and he can run as well but he is still learning the offense.

So, will Harris start? Well, they wanted him to come. They wanted him when he was in high school. He can run and he has played in big games. While he has a strong arm, he isn’t known as an accurate passer. So, again, will he start? “It really depends on how quickly he can learn everything and how he integrates into our football team.”

Of course that goes for all the QB candidates, Fedora said, adding that fitting into the chemistry of the team will be crucial for whomever is named the starter.

“I know were not ready to name a starter now and I’m not going to,” Fedora said rebuffing media attempts to tip his hand.

He noted that last year at this time, people were asking about a new starting quarterback by the name of Mitch Trubisky. “He wound up being the second pick in the draft,” Fedora said. “It can happen. What can’t it be us?”

Fedora said that the jury is still out on how picking up graduate transfers is going to work out, saying he’s never tried it before.

“I believe chemistry is so important to a football team,” he said. “How quickly can you get these guys integrated into your team? If it’s something we have success with, it’s something we’ll continue to do.”

However, schools don’t really recruit graduate transfers as the prospective players reach out to the schools.

“More and more guys are doing it for whatever reason,” Fedora said. “They’re looking to see the best fit for them.”

He said that players around the country are showing interest in transferring to Carolina after seeing the success the team has had and the success the coaching staff has had in developing players into NFL draft picks.

For UNC football, some of them are starting to go to the NFL early, opening the door to transfers.

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UNC’s Fedora gets his wish; Heels picked low in ACC preseason poll

UNC coach Larry Fedora got his wish as the media chose his team well down the ladder in the ACC Coastal, which is expected to be a wide-open division. The Tar Heels have lost their starting quarterback and running back who left early for the NFL as well as high-powered receivers who graduated. “They say that 90-something percent of the offensive production is gone,” Fedora said. “The more you guys talk about the guys who left, the better it is for us, It’s motivation for our guys to prove they are good football players.” He “urged” the media to keep […]

UNC coach Larry Fedora got his wish as the media chose his team well down the ladder in the ACC Coastal, which is expected to be a wide-open division.

The Tar Heels have lost their starting quarterback and running back who left early for the NFL as well as high-powered receivers who graduated.

“They say that 90-something percent of the offensive production is gone,” Fedora said. “The more you guys talk about the guys who left, the better it is for us, It’s motivation for our guys to prove they are good football players.”

UNC coach Larry Fedora.

UNC coach Larry Fedora.

He “urged” the media to keep talking about how the Tar Heels aren’t expected to do much this season. “Pick us low,” he said. “I would much rather prefer that. That would be a good thing for our program.”

The media who attended last week’s ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte did just that. In the preseason poll released Monday, the media chose North Carolina fifth in the seven-team Coastal Division.

Evidently, though, there were four members of the media who didn’t want to help Fedora’s motivation game as they picked the Tar Heels to win the Coastal Division.

Fedora admits to using the low expectations as motivation. “Sure, why not?,” he said adding that he really doesn’t have to do much. “Y’all (the media) are doing it for me so I appreciate that. Makes my job a little bit easier.”

Senior offensive tackle Bentley Spain said he’s not worried about any drop off from last year. “(The low expectation) motivates guys to try harder and prove people wrong,” he said. “We can’t control what people say about us so we’re just going to be the best we can every day.”

He said there are a number of young guys who are going to step up and shock people. “Even though they aren’t household names, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to be good players,” Spain said. “We just had a lot of really good talent they were behind last year. They’ll break out and it’s going to be just as good as last year.”

ACC Championship Votes
Florida State – 118
Clemson – 35
Louisville – 7
Virginia Tech – 3
Miami – 3
Duke – 1

Atlantic Division
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Florida State (121) – 1,108
Clemson (37) – 1,007
Louisville (9) – 843
NC State – 658
Wake Forest – 415
Syracuse – 362
Boston College – 283

Coastal Division
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Miami (103) – 1,065
Virginia Tech (40) – 932
Georgia Tech (9) – 708
Pitt (7) – 673
North Carolina (4) – 606
Duke (4) -473
Virginia -219

ACC Player of the Year
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville – 113
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State – 23
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – 11
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College – 8
Jaylen Samuels, AP, NC State – 7
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse – 2
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami – 1
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami – 1
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke -1

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Swofford takes a victory lap after perhaps ACC’s best season ever

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte. And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports. In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major […]

Despite off the field concerns hovering over some Atlantic Coast Conference schools, ACC Commissioner John Swofford took a victory lap of sorts in addressing the media at the ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte.

And why not? ACC teams won the NCAA football and basketball championships. The Heisman Trophy winner and runner-up came from the ACC. And generally, the ACC did extremely well against non-conference foes in most all sports.

In addition, the league’s graduation rate for the last school year was 89.3 percent, which is five points ahead of the national average and ahead of the other four major conferences.

“It was certainly one of the league’s most successful years and quite possibly its most successful year,” Swofford said.

Specific to football, Swofford said ACC teams arguably played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Around 2010, Swofford said the league made a move “to step up to the plate” and play tougher schedules.

But he said you can’t live in the past in college athletics.

This coming season, ACC teams will play a combined 115 games against teams that went to bowl games in 2016.

“The conference is deeper than it’s ever been,” Swofford said. “There are more good teams and it’s tougher to win an ACC football title than it’s ever been.”

Swofford pointed out that Clemson’s two toughest games en route to the NCAA title game last season came at home against ACC foes N.C. State and Pitt. He said that certainly “tells you something about what the ACC is today.”

With plans in the works with ESPN for the ACC Network, set to start in two years, and with all the changes in league membership over recent years, Swofford said it’s time to “take a deep breath” rather than take on additional big goals.

“You need to make sure you’re not veering away from what your mission is and what your value system is,” he said. “You have to make sure you continue to be who you are and who you want to be.”

He did say the league needs to continue to develop a culture of trust with various partners, including the other major NCAA conferences.

He said he’d like to see new rivalries develop but that those things happen over time. That might be particularly important because the growth of the league has made it so that old rivals N.C. State and Duke, for instance, are only scheduled to play once every six seasons.

Swofford said there is no easy solution to that problem as the schools have to look at what’s best for the league as a whole and the majority of the schools have voted on the current alignment and scheduling.

While he said the league will continue to look at the issue, he doesn’t anticipate any changes in the near future.

He said the league has plenty of time to bond with each other and TV partners, and continue to work together to make things better as agreements keep them all together through the 2035-36 season.

If Notre Dame, an ACC member in every sport except football, ever decides to join a league in football, by contract, it has to be the ACC, at least through that 2035-36 season.

Upon questioning, Swofford only touched briefly on sensitive topics like the Louisville sex scandal, the UNC academic saga and the controversy surrounding HB2.

He said when there are controversies at a school, the other schools sit down and talk to the school about what happened and what they are doing to correct it. “Usually it’s a few people who make bad decisions, not a whole institution,” he said.

Swofford defended the ACC’s decision to return to North Carolina for the ACC championship game and events such as this week’s ACC Kickoff by saying that the repeal of HB2 “took us back to where the state was before HB2… It’s as simple as that.”

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Kennedy Meeks drains threes in style in ACC barnstorming tour

During a three-point shooting contest at the first game of the 39th annual ACC Barnstorming tour (of seniors), UNC’s Kennedy Meeks got to show a little of his inner shooting guard. Not only did he loft several during the game, he made it to the finals of the three-point shooting contest. See the YouTube video to see the barrage. In the second round, he faltered however, and Holly Springs’ High School Senior Jake Kelsey won the contest, making all 10 of his shots. The ACC All-Stars, coached by Phil Ford, were actually led by another coach who suited up – […]


During a three-point shooting contest at the first game of the 39th annual ACC Barnstorming tour (of seniors), UNC’s Kennedy Meeks got to show a little of his inner shooting guard. Not only did he loft several during the game, he made it to the finals of the three-point shooting contest. See the YouTube video to see the barrage.

In the second round, he faltered however, and Holly Springs’ High School Senior Jake Kelsey won the contest, making all 10 of his shots.

The ACC All-Stars, coached by Phil Ford, were actually led by another coach who suited up – Duke assistant Nolan Smith, who drained nine threes during the 146-127 victory over the Wake County High School basketball All-Stars.

The MVP of the game – chosen from among the high school players – was Trey Terry of Fuquay-Varina High School.

Those taking part from the ACC included Nate Britt and Kanler Coker from North Carolina, Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson from Duke, Chris Brickhouse and BeeJay Anya (who didn’t play) from N.C. State, and Austin Arians and Trent VanHorn from Wake Forest, among others.

It was predictably a non-serious, fun exhibition with a bunch of three-point shooting and little defense. The high school team actually got an early lead but Britt hit three three-pointers to give the ACC All-Stars a lead they would never relinquish – although the high schoolers cut the margin to under double-digits late before the ACC pulled away.

While Meeks, fresh off the NCAA title game, seemed to be the biggest draw – and had the longest line for autographs after the game – Jefferson was a hit during the game. The Duke senior came off as auditioning for the Harlem Globetrotters, once even holding the ball between his legs – a la Meadowlark Lemon – as he faked out the opponents by pretending to shoot with nothing in his hands.

The eight-city tour continues through April 22. The line-ups may vary. For instance, UNC players Isaiah Hicks and Stilman White were not at this game but are expected to participate.

For more information on the barnstorming tour, please click here.

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CHAMPS: Heels get redemption in slugfest

FJQFXGCNNXRTSBQ.20170404055818A year after getting a kick in the gut in the final second of the NCAA Tournament title game, North Carolina got redemption with a tough slugfest victory over Gonzaga to give the Tar Heels their sixth national championship, 71-65.

As has been the trend this season, the Tar Heels found a way to win and was able to close out the game.

Down 65-63 with less than two minutes to play, Carolina indeed closed out the game with an 8-0 run.

Justin Jackson, who had missed all nine of his three-point attempts, came up with an old-fashioned three-point play inside with 1:40 left to give the Tar Heels a 66-65 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss, who had scored 15 points, missed a jumper. Theo Pinson got the rebound for Carolina. The Tar Heels burned clock but couldn’t score. Kennedy Meeks was able to get a tie up, giving the possession back to the Heels with 49 seconds left.

The Heels burned the clock and Isaiah Hicks drove the lane to bang one in at the end of the shot clock, giving Carolina a 68-65 advantage.

Williams-Goss drove in the lane but Meeks came up with a block. Joel Berry recovered the ball and threw ahead to Jackson for a dunk to all but wrap it up at 70-65 with seconds remaining.

Meeks stole a desperation pass and Berry was fouled. After a timeout to re-gain his composure, he hit one of two free throws before the celebration began.

“Forget my shooting – we’re national champions!,” said Jackson, who did manage to score 16 points.

But it was Berry, still not 100 percent after two turned ankles, who led way with 22 points on his way to the Most Outstanding Player award of the Final Four.

“It’s been a hard road,” Berry said. “Now we can forget about last year.”

Senior Nate Britt said the team talked about this day and this feeling for quite some time. “We set a goal and we achieved our dream to get back and make it happen,” he said.

UNC coach Roy Williams said there is no better feeling for a coach than to see his “kids jump around” after a national championship win. Still, he said it didn’t take away the pain of last year because Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James didn’t get to experience the feeling.

It was a frustrating feeling for much of the game as the officials called 44 fouls, including 11 in the first four-plus minutes of the second half. Neither team could get any flow on the offense.

As poorly as Carolina shot, less than 36 percent, the Heels held Gonzaga to 34 percent shooting. It was the first time this year that a team shot better than Gonzaga, which finishes the season 37-2.

“Neither team played very well but both teams played really hard,” Coach Williams said. He did praise his team’s second half defense after giving the Zags too many open threes in the first half when Gonzaga took at 35-32 lead at the break.

He admittedly blessed his team out at the half and reminded them that the Heels led by five at the half in last year’s finals and Villanova came out hungrier and wound up winning.

This year, Carolina scored the first eight points of the second half, highlighted by four points and an assist by Berry.

But Gonzaga came back to take a 43-40 lead, and the lead went back and forth setting up a hectic and emotional last few minutes. There were 12 lead changes and 11 ties during the game.

With Carolina holding a 59-57 lead and less than five minutes remaining, the Tar Heels seemingly got the ball back with a lead. But officials, incorrectly, ruled that a Williams-Goss three-point shot went off Pinson’s hand out of bounds. After giving the ball back to Gonzaga, Williams-Goss knocked in a three, giving the Zags a 60-59 lead with 4:30 left.

Seconds later, Berry drained a three to give the lead back to Carolina at 62-60.

Another Williams-Goss bucket put Gonzaga up 65-63 with 1:50 left, setting up Carolina’s 8-0 run that gave the Heels the title.

“Isaiah knocked in a big shot and Kennedy got a big block,” said Berry, who said he almost started to cry after he threw it to Jackson for the game-clinching dunk.

Hicks, who scored 13, said that the feeling was 180 degrees different from last year. “What we worked for was finally here. It’s surreal,” he said.

Carolina finishes the season of redemption at 33-7. There will be a celebration at the Smith Center at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

For more on the game – including a box score, video highlights and additional commentary – please click here.

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UNC finds a (new) way to get to title game

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said it’s amazing to get to national championship for a second straight year and the Tar Heels found a new way to get there – by missing free throws. “Relieved, lucky, fortunate but we’re still playing,” Coach Williams said. With a one-point lead, the Tar Heels missed four free throws in the last six seconds but twice were able to get the ball back to run out the time and defeat Oregon 77-76 to advance to Monday night’s title game against Gonzaga. After a hobbled Joel Berry hit a three from the right wing to […]

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said it’s amazing to get to national championship for a second straight year and the Tar Heels found a new way to get there – by missing free throws.

“Relieved, lucky, fortunate but we’re still playing,” Coach Williams said.

With a one-point lead, the Tar Heels missed four free throws in the last six seconds but twice were able to get the ball back to run out the time and defeat Oregon 77-76 to advance to Monday night’s title game against Gonzaga.

After a hobbled Joel Berry hit a three from the right wing to put the Heels up 71-62 with 5:50 left, Carolina didn’t score a field goal the rest of the way.

The Heels hit six of eight free throws to go up 77-71 with less than a minute to go.

But Oregon’s Dorsey hit a big three that banged on the iron four times before falling in with 42 seconds left to make it a one-possession game at 77-74.

Carolina ran the clock down before Theo Pinson missed a shot with time running down. Oregon rushed it up and scored a bucket to make it 77-76 with six seconds to go.

On the inbounds, Kennedy Meeks, who had been the hero of the game for the Heels, was fouled and went to the line for two free throws. He missed them both but Pinson was able to knife in to knock the ball out to Berry, who was fouled with four seconds left.

And, Berry, who hits 81 percent of his foul shots, missed both of them. This time Meeks reached in and grabbed the rebound, throwing it out to Pinson who dribbled out the clock.

Meeks scored a season-high 25 points and hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds to lead the Heels. With Berry hitting only two of 14 shots and with fellow big man Isaiah Hicks having perhaps his worst game of the season by scoring a mere one of 12, Coach Williams said Carolina “needed Kennedy to score more today.”

He not only scored a lot of points, he scored a lot of big points. Carolina trailed 30-22 in the first half – the Heels largest deficit of the game and in the NCAA Tournament – before going on a 17-6 run.

During the run, Meeks got open inside and Nate Britt found him for a bucket that gave the Tar Heels a 37-36 lead. Carolina never trailed again.

Up 39-36 at the half, the Heels extended the margin to eight after Justin Jackson hit a three in transition three minutes into the second half to make it 46-38.

Free throws by Jackson after a steal gave Carolina a nine-point lead at 56-47 with under 13 minutes to go.

A Meeks bucket inside, on a dish from Pinson, gave the Heels their largest lead of the game at 66-56 with 8:30 to go. It never got down to a one-possession game until the hectic last minute.

Other than the tp out and rebound in the closing seconds, Coach Williams pointed to Meeks and Jackson making the difference. “Kennedy contributed everything inside and Justin made three big threes in the second half,” he said. Jackson finished with 22 points.

Coach Williams was also happy with Carolina’s defense, particularly in the second half, but he noted that Oregon didn’t shoot as well as the Ducks normally do plus the Heels fouled to send Oregon to the line. As a result, the Ducks hit 15 of 16 free throws down the stretch to stay in it, making it ironic that Carolina’s missed free throws may have actually helped the Heels.

The Tar Heels practice offensive rebounding on missed free throws and tip-out drills every day, Coach Williams said.

In order to beat Gonzaga Monday night, he knows the Tar Heels need to play better though rather than relying on new ways to win.

“Joel didn’t play very well but he got through the game without hurting his ankle,” Coach Williams said. “I’m hoping he plays better Monday night.”

Carolina, now 32-7, plays Gonzaga for the national championship Monday starting at 9:20 p.m.

For more on the game, including a box score, please click here.

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NCAA academic case hovers over UNC at another Final Four

North_Carolina_Academic_Probe_28327

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham has stopped trying to project when the NCAA case tied to the school’s multi-year academic scandal will reach a conclusion. …read more

Source:: WRAL

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Luke Maye enters UNC lore with game winner

North Carolina’s Luke Maye went long stretches without playing much this season. But the Tar Heels needed the sophomore to keep the season going. Maye swished a 19-footer in the last second to give the Heels a 75-73 victory over Kentucky to advance to the Final Four for the second year in a row. Maye, the South Region’s Most Outstanding Player, hit the game winner after Kentucky had hit three three-pointers in the last 47 seconds to tie the game at 73. Malik Monk, who lit up the Heels for 47 in the regular season, hit a three from the […]

North Carolina’s Luke Maye went long stretches without playing much this season. But the Tar Heels needed the sophomore to keep the season going.

Maye swished a 19-footer in the last second to give the Heels a 75-73 victory over Kentucky to advance to the Final Four for the second year in a row.

Maye, the South Region’s Most Outstanding Player, hit the game winner after Kentucky had hit three three-pointers in the last 47 seconds to tie the game at 73.

Malik Monk, who lit up the Heels for 47 in the regular season, hit a three from the top of the key with seven seconds left. The Heels got the ball in quickly and Theo Pinson raced down the court. Pinson penetrated the lane and then dropped it back to Maye who banged it in.

“I just wanted to shoot it like I do everyday in practice,” Maye said on the court before the Tar Heels clipped down the nets.

Kennedy Meeks, who had a career-high 17 rebounds, said he wasn’t surprised by Maye’s shot and tournament performance. “He shoots it like that all the time in practice,” he said. “Luke stepped up big time to help us get this win.”

Teammate Justin Jackson, who led the Heels with 19 points, said that Maye’s success shows that “with hard work you can be a great player.”

As against Arkansas earlier in the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina was down in the late stages and went on a run.

Trailing 64-59 with five minutes to go after leading most of the game, Carolina went on a 12-0 run to take a 71-64 lead with less than a minute to go.

Pinson started the scoring with a runner to cut the deficit to 64-61. After a defensive stop, after Kentucky had scored on 12 straight possessions to take the five-point lead, Jackson hit a 12 footer to cut it to 64-63 with 3:46 left.

A Meeks block on the other end led to a Pinson run out. He was fouled and after a TV timeout, he hit two free throws to give Carolina the lead at 65-64 with 3:22 to go.

After yet another defensive stop, Maye was fouled and he hit both ends of a one-and-one situation to put the Heels up 67-64 with 2:41 left.

Kentucky missed a three and Maye got the rebound. The Heels ran the shot clock down and Joel Berry, playing on two bad ankles, drove and scored high off the backboard to put Carolina up 69-64 with 1:45 to go.

A Monk miss led to a Kentucky foul on Pinson, who got the rebound. Pinson hit both ends of a one-and-one to give the Heels a commanding 71-64 lead with 53.5 seconds left.

That’s when Kentucky went on the three-point barrage outscoring the Heels 9-2 to tie it before Maye hit the winner.

With less than a second left, Kentucky threw the ball all the way down the court out of bounds. UNC threw the ball in and the game ended and the celebration began.

Maye scored a career-high 17 after scoring a career-high 16 in the previous game.

The Tar Heels outshot Kentucky, 46 to 42 percent, and outrebounded the Wildcats 44 to 34.

Carolina, now 31-7, plays Oregon Saturday night for the right to play for the national title.

For a box score and more commentary on the game, please click here.

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Berry’s back, Maye shines as Heels advance

North Carolina’s Joel Berry, hampered by a bad ankle, returned to form and sub Luke Maye had his best game as the Tar Heels stopped Bulter 92-80 to advance to the Elite Eight.

Berry hit from outside and drove to the basket to lead all scorers with 26 points. His seven points during a 14-0 run early in the game helped open it up. Carolina led just 13-12 when the Heels went on the run.

A Maye three gave the Tar Heels their biggest lead of the first half at 30-14 midway through the half.

Carolina hit eight of its nine threes in the first half to take a commanding 52-36 lead at the break.

Maye hit three of them and finished the game with a career high 16 points and 12 rebounds. “I just wanted to get to an open spot and my teammates found me,” Maye said.

In the second half, the Heels got the lead as high as 20 several times – the first being a Berry drive by layup that made it 63-43 with 14:38 to go.

A 13-4 Butler run midway through the half cut the lead to 11. It got as close as 10 at 76-66 with six minutes to go as the Heels had troubles from the foul line (at one point going just six of 14 in the second half).

A pair of free throws by Nate Britt, in a one-and-one situation, seemed to right the ship and the game never seemed to be in doubt again.

“It’s a game of runs,” said Justin Jackson, who scored 24. “We tried to stay focused and stay poised, as coach likes to say.

Though Jackson and Berry scored more than Maye, they both gave him a lot of credit for the win. Jackson said he was huge and the Heels need him to keep it up. Berry said Maye gives the Heels an advantage to have a big guy who can step back for a three or open up the spacing to allow the guards to drive.

Coach Roy Williams didn’t seem surprised by Maye’s effort. “What Luke did today, we see a lot at practice,” he said. “He gave us a big lift.”

Coach Williams said Maye is a good shooter and rebounder with a lot of savvy. “But he’s going to be successful because of what he has in his brain and his heart,” he said.

The other big guys didn’t contribute as much offensively but Kennedy meeks did haul in 11 rebounds. Meanwhile Isaiah Hicks fouled out with nine points in 17 minutes of play.

The Tar Heels shot 54.4 percent for game compared to 43.5 for the Bulldogs. Plus, the Heels outrebounded Butler 38-26.

Carolina, now 30-7, play the winner of UCLA-Kentucky on Sunday afternoon.

For a box score, a video and more commentary, please click here.

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Heels need 12-0 late run to survive Arkansas

North Carolina, despite leading by 17 in the first half, needed a 12-0 run at the end of the game to defeat Arkansas 72-65 to advance to the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels trailed 65-60 with more than three minutes left and it particularly looked bad for Carolina after four straight turnovers. Then Joel Berry missed a three and Isaiah Hicks’ shot was blocked. But Carolina locked down defensively. “We did a good job of forcing them into bad shots late,” Berry said. While UNC hit six of its last seven shots, Arkansas missed all of its last seven shots. […]

North Carolina, despite leading by 17 in the first half, needed a 12-0 run at the end of the game to defeat Arkansas 72-65 to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Tar Heels trailed 65-60 with more than three minutes left and it particularly looked bad for Carolina after four straight turnovers. Then Joel Berry missed a three and Isaiah Hicks’ shot was blocked.

But Carolina locked down defensively. “We did a good job of forcing them into bad shots late,” Berry said.

While UNC hit six of its last seven shots, Arkansas missed all of its last seven shots.

During the game-ending run, Berry and Hicks each hit both ends of one-and-one free throw situations. Hicks’ second free throw gave the Heels the lead a 66-65 with 1:44 to play.

After Carolina forced a errant long three at the end of the shot clock, Kennedy Meeks came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game. A driving Berry threw up a wild shot at the end of the shot clock. UNC’s bench thought Berry was fouled while Arkansas’ bench thought Berry charged. Nothing was called and the shot bounded high of the backboard when Meeks tipped the rebound in with his left hand to give the Heels a 68-65 lead with just 45 seconds to play.

Meeks said Berry showed great desire and determination to get the ball up. “I happened to be in the right position,” he said.

Arkansas missed a pair of free throws and then missed a three before Hicks was fouled. He hit both free throws to wrap it up at 70-65 with 10 seconds left. After forcing a turnover, Justin Jackson went in for a dunk to finish off the scoring.

“Sometimes you need a game like that,” Berry said. “We know we can win a game when we’re down by five with three minutes to go.”

And the Tar Heels did it with their two top scorers – Berry and Jackson – hitting just seven of their 27 shots. Plus Carolina turned the ball over 17 times.

“We were lucky but we were unlucky there for a while,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I liked how tough and focused we were… I love the way we competed.”

Carolina flew out to a commanding 30-13 lead. The Heels were getting the ball to the hoop to go along with three threes.

But a 15-2 Arkansas run, led by Daryl Macon off the bench, pulled the Razorbacks to within four at 32-28.

Carolina still led 38-33 at the half and the Heels extended the lead to nine at the start of the second half.

But Arkansas’ defense rattled Carolina and the Heels helped by taking and missing four straight three-point shots. In no time, Arkansas led 50-46. While it was tied twice after that, Carolina didn’t take the lead again until that Hicks free throw with 1:44 left.

Meeks led the Tar Heels with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Jackson scored 15 points and stole the ball five times.

The Tar Heels, now 29-7, play Butler in a Sweet 16 game Friday.

For more on the game, including a box score, please click here.