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Tar Heels could have played better but not much better

Roy Williams.

Roy Williams.

“I like the way my team fought and I like the way they guarded,” UNC coach Roy Williams said after the season-ending loss to Wisconsin.

I’m not sure the Tar Heels could have played much better, except for that two-minute stretch when Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run and never trailed again.

After a backdoor play that put the Badgers up by a point with six minutes to go, UNC probably should have called a timeout. I know how Coach Williams likes to hold on to those timeouts. But, in hindsight, perhaps Carolina could have ended the run. Instead, Wisconsin scored four more points to go up by five.

The Tar Heels could never catch up.

I thought that if the Tar Heels could avoid turning the ball over and stayed out of foul trouble, they had a decent shot to upset the Badgers. And Carolina only committed four turnovers the whole game but the Heels didn’t stay out of foul trouble.

They also missed too many free throws and allowed an 8-0 run in the first half and that 9-0 run in the second half.

Had Brice Johnson, who was in foul trouble, been able to play 30 minutes rather than 22 minutes and had the Heels hit just a couple more free throws, they could have still won.

When Carolina went small, as much by necessity as anything else, the Badgers controlled the boards. One big offensive rebound late led to a kick-out three that took the lead from 65-64 to 68-64 with just over three minutes to go.

We couldn’t finish on defense in key possessions (in the second half),” UNC’s Marcus Paige. “But we played intense the whole game.”

Carolina needed some help from Wisconsin at the end but the Badgers hit all eight of their free throw attempts in the last 42 seconds.

The three-point shot kept Carolina in it throughout including two big ones late by Paige.

“We made some big plays,” Coach Williams said. “We just didn’t make enough of ‘em.”

He feels good about the fact that, unless someone foolishly turns pro or transfers or something, all the key players from this year’s team will be back next season.

“They can use this as fuel,” he said of the loss. “If we can take care of those little lapses (referring to late runs by Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament and by Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament), we have a chance to be one of those teams that has a chance to win it all.”


Late Badger run ends UNC’s season

Sam Dekker.

Sam Dekker.

Underdog North Carolina led No. 1 seed Wisconsin most of the way and were still ahead with seven minutes to go but the Badgers went on a 9-0 over the next two minutes to seize control and hit free throws down the stretch to hold off the Tar Heels 79-72. (3/26)

The Sweet 16 loss eliminated Carolina from the NCAA Tournament.

“You have to congratulate Wisconsin. They’re really, really tough kids,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “The difference between winning and losing is so small. We came down (with a four-point lead) with JP (Tokoto) in the open court and couldn’t convert, and then they scored nine in a row.”

The run, highlighted by reserve Zak Showalter’s four points and a steal, erased a 60-56 Carolina lead and put the Badgers up 65-60 with five minutes to go.

But Carolina, which went 8 for 13 from beyond the three-point line, didn’t fold – cutting it to two twice and to one twice.

Marcus Paige hit a three a shade to the right of the key to cut the lead to 69-67 with 1:39 left and then he hit a three from the same spot with 54 seconds left that cut the deficit to 71-70.

Down by three, UNC’s Isaiah Hicks missed two free throws that forced the Tar Heels to foul. But Wisconsin went eight of eight from the free throw line over the last 42 seconds to wrap it up.

In fact, the Badgers outscored the Tar Heels by eight points (20-12) from the foul line. Wisconsin just missed three free throws all night while Carolina missed three free throws in the last 2:49 and eight over the entire game.

Even though Carolina’s big men got in foul trouble and even though the subsequently taller Badgers outrebounded the Heels 35-28, UNC led most of the way.

An 8-0 Wisconsin run in the first half gave the Badgers a 25-20 advantage though. A 6-0 Carolina run put the Heels right back up and they managed to lead 33-31 at the half.

The game went back and forth for a few minutes to start the second half but UNC’s Joel Berry hit a three, drew a charge and then Paige hooked one in to give Carolina its biggest lead of the game at 51-44 with 12:11 to play.

The Tar Heels held the lead and generally controlled the action until that 9-0 Wisconsin run six minutes later put the Badgers up for good.

Prior to the game, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, a national player of the year candidate, dominated the conversation. But it was Sam Dekker who killed the Tar Heels with a career-high 23 points, including 15 in the first half.

The rest of the Wisconsin team woke up in the second half as they shot just 37 percent from the floor in the first half but 58 percent in the second half.

Carolina’s Brice Johnson was the best shooter for the Heels as he hit seven of nine but he was in foul trouble much of the game and, despite scoring 15 points, only played 22 minutes. That really hurt the Tar Heels as Kennedy Meeks, who played just 14 minutes, was slowed by a sprained knee and in foul trouble himself.

UNC’s Justin Jackson hit all three of his three-point attempts and finished with 15 points. Paige, who had just two points in the first half once again, finished with 12.

Paige said Wisconsin was a tough team and tough matchup for the Heels but it will be losses to other teams earlier in the year that the Heels will look back on and regret. While the Tar Heels played better than a No. 4 seed late in the season, those earlier losses cost them as they had to play the No. 1 seed earlier than they’d like.

He added that the Tar Heels were a close-knit group this season and that most of the players will be coming back next season. “Next season we’ll try to execute better and make something special out of it,” he said.

Every person who played for Carolina against Wisconsin will be coming back next season. The Tar Heels finish the season 26-12.

Box score


UNC advances as Paige explodes in the second half

Marcus Paige.

Marcus Paige.

North Carolina’s Marcus Paige exploded for 20 second-half points to lead the Tar Heels to a wild, hard-fought, up-and-down 87-78 victory over Arkansas to advance to the Sweet 16 for an NCAA-record 32nd time. (3/21)

Paige scored just two points and missed seven of eight shots in the first half. “I was rushing it a little bit,” Paige said. “In the second half, I wanted to let the game to come to me… After that, I got into rhythm.”

An up-tempo Arkansas team wanted to run with North Carolina and force Tar Heel turnovers but just the opposite happened as a recurring Carolina zone slowed the Razorbacks and the Heels took advantage of a season-high 21 turnovers. UNC scored 24 points off those miscues.

The Tar Heels led 39-36 at halftime after Nate Britt, who has played sparingly lately, came off the bench to score 10 points despite the Heels only shooting 40 percent.

In the second half, Paige and Justin Jackson, who scored 14 of his 16 points, helped the Heels increase their field goal shooting to 55 percent.

But the game went back and forth during the first six minutes of the second half. With Arkansas ahead 52-51, Paige, who had two points at the time, took over.

First, Paige swished a three from the left wing to give Carolina the lead at 54-52. JP Tokoto followed an Arkansas turnover with a falling down three-point play in the lane to give the Heels a 57-52 lead.

But Arkansas went on a 7-1 run over just a minute and a half to grab back the lead at 59-58. Again it was Paige that put Carolina back on top win a pair of free throws followed by a coast-to-coast fastbreak bucket and free throw to put UNC up 63-59 midway through the second half.

After taking a break on the bench, Paige came in and sank another three from the left corner and a minute later drained a three from the top of the key to give Carolina its first double-digit lead of the game at 71-61 with 7:18 to go.

The lead got as high as 12 after that and not closer than seven the rest of the way. Despite losing Meeks to a sprained knee late and despite losing Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks to fouls, the Tar Heels wrapped it up with seven free throws in the last minute and a half. Carolina hit 29 of 37 free throws on the night.

Due to foul trouble and the ability to get the ball up the court against Razorback pressure, Carolina often went small with three guards throughout the game. The Tar Heels didn’t have much trouble breaking the Arkansas press and were able to get some fastbreak layups.

Defensively, the Tar Heels held Arkansas to just 37 percent from the floor.

Paige also had five steals to go along with his team-high 22 points. In addition to Jackson’s 16 points, Tokoto added 13 and Britt finished with those 10 first-half points.

Carolina’s big men had trouble as Meeks sat out much of the second half in foul trouble on his way to nine points and four turnovers and Johnson was just two of eight from the floor but he hauled in 13 rebounds before he fouled out.

Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 27 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of his career.

The Tar Heels, 26-11, advance to a Sweet 16 matchup with either Wisconsin or Oregon on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Box score


What they’re saying about NC State’s upset of Villanova

statelogoThe 8th seeded N.C. State Wolfpack is going back to the Sweet 16 for the second time in the last four years after an 71-68 upset of top-seeded Villanova on Saturday. The last time the Pack beat a regional No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament was during the run to the title in 1983. Here is what they’re saying about the victory.

“I want to give credit to N.C. State. They played a great game, and I think they were able to impose their will and do the things that they did well all season and take us out of what we do well.”
- Villanova coach Jay Wright

“In my opinion, (the ACC) it’s an undervalued conference right now for how strong our league is. So when you went on the road like we have and beat North Carolina, or on the road and beat Louisville or beat a Duke team, it’s not that we don’t respect — we respect Villanova, but we’ve seen good teams. We’ve seen a lot of them in our conference. You see them about every night. So a league like that prepares you for games like tonight. But again, our guys don’t — it’s not something we make a big deal out of, whether they’re the 1, or whatever. We’re going to play, and that’s our next opponent.”
- NC State coach Mark Gottfried

“In terms of talent, N.C. State is in top 15ish range. I’d argue they’re more talented than Villanova. Wolfpack just didn’t always show up.”
- NBC Sports Rob Dauster

“Seriously, did the entire Villanova team get food poisoning last night? One of the best shooting teams in country putting up airballs.”
- Fox Sports Stewart Mandel

“If the Wolfpack can control the pace and tempo in the Sweet 16, they could very well make a surprising run.”
- Bleacher Report’s Nate Loop

“All the close calls that went against N.C. State during the regular season are suddenly going the Wolfpack’s way in the NCAA tournament.”
- Raleigh News & Observer’s Joe Giglio

“We came out today with the feeling that everybody expected us to lose to a one seed, but we believe in ourselves and that we’re good enough to beat anybody in the country and we went down and did it.”
- NC State’s Beejay Anya

“The Wildcats have one more March failure to tack on the list. They shot a season-high 63 percent in the tournament opener against Lafayette. Against the Wolfpack, they fired ‘em early in the shot clock, got stuffed at the rim and twice airballed 3-point attempts. These were the top-seeded Big East champs?”
- Associated Press’s Dan Gelston

“Before the game, a team manager had passed around a blog post suggesting that even N.C. State’s finest effort would not be enough to fell the Wildcats, losers of just two games all season and 9.5-point favorites coming off a 41-point thrashing of poor Lafayette. It would not let that go by easily either.”
- Sports Illustrated’s Dan Greene

“We used all that to add fuel to the fire.It s houldn’t take that, but we like those things to get us over the hump.”
- NC State’s Trevor Lacey, who scored a game-high 17 points.


Anya glad you kept watching; State wins at buzzer

beejayanyaLSU missed its last 12 field goals and last six free throws as NC State came from 16 down to win at the buzzer on a left-handed hook by Beejay Anya. The 66-65 Wolfpack win advances them to the round of 32 against Villanova Saturday.

The Pack had several opportunities to tie or take the lead in the last minute and a half after missed free throws but missed four three-point shots. LSU led 65-62 with a minute to play but Anya tipped in a Ralston Turner missed three to draw State to within a point at 65-64.

Trevor Lacey came down with a rebound on the other end, keeping the dribble going as he was falling down and the Pack called timeout with 14 seconds left.

It appeared that Lacey was going to take the last shot but he was heavily covered and hastily got it to Anya in the lane with four seconds left. Anya went to his right but found no opening so he reversed to the left, hooking up a shot from about six feet out. The ball bounced around and fell through for the victory. Those four points were the only ones Anya scored all night.

The Pack led 20-19 and never led again until the Anya shot. The Pack trailed by 16 at the half.

“We wanted to stay positive,” State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We got after them at the half but these guys can handle it.” He said that in the second half, the defense stopped LSU from getting easy second-chance dunks that they got in the first half.

“But the big thing was that we stayed positive and kept fighting til the end.”

Lacey agreed. “We was staying positive,” he said. “We knew our shots was gonna fall. We came out and we was excited. We wasn’t executing as well as we know we could.”

He said that in the second half the players calmed down. “It started on the defensive end,” he said. “Once we got stops, we got out on the transition and got some easy baskets.”

Cat Barber led the Pack with 17 points but they got good play off the bench by Kyle Washington who scored nine points on a four of five performance in just 12 minutes of play.

Box score


Error-prone Tar Heels advance by Harvard

justinjacksonDespite committing 17 turnovers and blowing a 16-point lead, North Carolina got a fast-break bucket in the closing seconds to sneak by Harvard 67-65 to advance in the NCAA Tournament. (3/14)

The Tar Heels shot 55 percent and seemed to be in command at 52-36 in the second half. But turnovers and fouls hampered the Heels as Harvard was able to take a 65-63 lead on a four-point play with just 1:15 left. It was the Crimson’s first lead of the game.

Harvard’s 16-5 run over six minutes culminated with an off balanced three by Siyani Chambers and a foul by UNC’s Marcus Paige, who was fighting his way around a screen, which led to the Crimson’s 18th made free throw of the game.

UNC freshman Justin Jackson came right back with a bucket in the lane that tied the score at 65-all with 1:03 to play.

Carolina’s defense finally got a stop. (Harvard scored on nine of its last 11 possessions.) Carolina’s offense turned the long rebound into a fast break from JP Tokoto to Paige to Jackson for an open dunk with 23 seconds left.

The Heels got another defensive stop and had a chance to wrap up the game but Kennedy Meeks missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12 seconds left. Harvard had a chance to win as Wesley Saunders put up a three from straight away but it banked off the backboard and the front rim and UNC escaped.

“Right now I feel like I won the lottery,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It’s the luckiest I’ve ever felt after a basketball game by entire life.”

He praised Paige for a key three pointer that broke a four-minute streak late without a bucket and he praised Jackson for his two buckets in the last minute that won it. But, he said, “if we’d have played a little bit better it might not have come down to that.”

For the most part, the Tar Heels dominated as they outrebounded Harvard 35-26 and outshot Harvard 55 to 38 percent. But Harvard got 29 points off turnovers, compared to just six for Carolina and Harvard got 18 points from the foul line, compared to just eight for Carolina.

Jackson led the Tar Heels with 14 points while Paige scored 12 and Meeks chipped in 10. But Meeks also turned the ball over five times, the most of any game this season.

Saunders led Harvard with 24 points, including his team’s first 10 points of the game.

Carolina started the game well, getting out to a 21-7 lead midway through the first half. Isaiah Hicks provided Carolina with a lift with Meeks and Brice Johnson not playing well as he came off the bench for nine first-half points. The Tar Heels settled for an 11-point lead at the half, 36-25.

In the second half, a Tokoto steal led to a Paige layup on the fastbreak that gave the Heels a 16-point cushion at 52-36. But little went right for the Heels after that until the late-game heroics by Paige and Jackson.

The Tar Heels, 25-11, advance to the round of 32 on Saturday.

Box score


Calling Bullsh*t on why Christian Laettner was hated

laettner3030ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary Sunday night addressed the issue of why people hate former Duke basketball player Christian Laettner. While touching on and sometimes dancing around some of the real reasons, for the most part, they tried to conclude that it was mainly because Duke won all the time and he was the face of Duke. I call bullsh*t on that.

Fans in the ACC, who saw him the most, didn’t hate him because Duke beat them. In fact, during his four years, North Carolina went 6-5 against Duke including a 22-point victory in an ACC Tournament final. Tar Heel fans were more likely to hate him because he lacked class – what they thought was in great contrast to their team. Simply put, he was an ass.

Christian Laettner.

Christian Laettner.

He treated people poorly – even his own fans – ignoring them, refusing autographs and generally coming across as if he were better than you and everyone. On the court, he talked trash and used foul language. He intentionally stomped on people and picked fights. He was beyond conceited, beyond arrogant.

These are all legitimate reasons to hate someone, or to put it softer, dislike someone.

Unfortunately, especially nationally, there is another disturbing reason Laettner is hated. He’s white and played basketball better than most black players. He wasn’t rich and entitled. He wasn’t white collar. He was just white.

Many white people, especially, think of basketball as a black man’s game. And they are jealous that they can’t play basketball that way. It’s racist in so many ways – from the attitude that black people are there to entertain on the basketball court to the fact that a white guy shouldn’t be able to play that way.

There is a white guilt issue. White = privilege. Black = struggle. As one high school coach says, “Suburban kids tend to play for the fun of it but inner city kids look at basketball as a matter of life and death.”

Think I’m all wet? How else can one explain that in a national bracket on the most hated players, in the final eight there was only one person – Mateen Cleaves – who has a black mother and a black father? In a sport where the vast majority of starters are black, only one black player made the final eight. Are only white players taunting opponents or pounding their chest after buckets? Or is it that our society likes that kind of out-of-control emotion? The Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman certainly gets endorsements largely for his antics.

More than half of the nominees put up for the most hated player of the last 30 years are white. Of the Final Four, three of the players most hated played at Duke’s rival UNC – Eric Montross, Tyler Hansbrough and Rick Fox, whose mother is white. So all four of the most hated players of the last 30 years of college basketball were born to white mothers. How can that be explained?

Did Montross, Hansbrough and Fox treat fans poorly? No. Did they use foul language and pick fights on the court? No. Did they act arrogant? No. Did they get caught for smoking dope? No. Did they play for Duke? No. Perhaps they were hated for being goody two shoes, and whites are more likely to be perceived as goody two shoes. I don’t know. I suppose the argument can be made that Carolina traditionally wins, like Duke, but then why wouldn’t Scott Williams or J.R. Reid or Jerry Stackhouse or Rasheed Wallace be on the list instead?

It’s disturbing. Montross “won” his bracket by beating out such players as Allen Iverson, a guy who had alcohol and gambling problems and who went broke buying jewelry to match his wild array of tattoos. That’s not to mention his not paying child support for five kids, who he once illegally abducted from his wife. As a player, he skipped practices and threw his teammates and coaches under the bus. He was selfish and always hogged the ball.

He wasn’t good with fans. In fact, he was known for canceling appearances at the last second. After failing to attend one meet-and-greet, one fan put it this way: “It’s disappointing, but it’s not shocking, though. It’s kind of expected of him, it seems like.”

How can anyone explain hating Montross, a gentleman who takes time to speak with everyone and treats people with respect, more than Iverson? Is it what has become known as the “soft bigotry of low expectations” for blacks when it comes to how one presents himself and maybe the bigotry of high expectations for how blacks play basketball.

Laettner was a great basketball player, especially in college. If you’re going to hate Laettner, do so because he is, or at least was, a jerk.


Tar Heels simply failed to get points during Irish 3-point barrage

threepointWhen Notre Dame was in the midst of its big run against Carolina, the Tar Heels helped with several turnovers. The Irish were hot and were going to score their points but if the Heels just hadn’t helped out with those turnovers, we’d be talking about UNC as the ACC champions.

Carolina had 13 turnovers for the whole game but six of them came from the 8:44 mark of the second half to the 4 minute mark of the second half – fewer than five minutes. During that time the Heels went from five up to 10 down.

Also during that stretch, Notre Dame hit 11 of 13 shots, including four threes and two layups after turnovers. Meanwhile, Carolina was barely even getting shots on its trips down the court. Tough to come back from that.

This game illustrates how different the game of basketball has become with the ever-growing reliance on the three-point shot. Notre Dame hits 39 percent of its threes normally and the Irish hit 50 percent in this game, accounting for a third of their points. At one stretch during the first half, Carolina was more than matching Notre Dame basket for basket and still failing behind.

Free throws accounted for another third. I know I’m not from the attention deficit generation and I’m probably an old fuddy duddy, but I prefer when a team with the most rebounds and the most baskets wins the game.

The Tar Heels scored nine more baskets and had two more rebounds. But this is not the game we have today. I enjoy seeing the occasional three pointer but when you have two teams taking 44 of them, that’s a bit much.

I need to crank up the VCR and watch an old tournament final I guess – from back in the day when there were eight teams in the league – and Notre Dame wasn’t one of them.


Big Notre Dame late run ends Carolina’s hopes

notredamelogoNotre Dame, trailing North Carolina by nine midway through the second half, went on an amazing and quick 26-3 run that ended Carolina’s hopes of winning four games in four days. The Irish’s 90-82 win in the finals of the ACC Tournament gave them their first conference tournament title in any sport. (3/14)

With 9:54 left, UNC’s Marcus Paige banged in a three to give the surging Tar Heels a 63-54 lead. After that, if you blinked, you missed Notre Dame taking the lead. Over the next 1:50, the Irish outscored the Heels 13-1 and took a 67-64 lead on a three by Pat Connaughton – Notre Dame’s third three of the run.

It didn’t get better as Carolina scored just once on its next eight possessions. During a stretch of 2:20, the Tar Heels turned the ball over five times and the Irish took advantage each time but one. In fewer than five minutes during the onslaught, Carolina had six of its 13 turnovers.

By the end of the 26-3 run, the Tar Heels trailed by 14 with fewer than three minutes to go at 80-66. Paige scored 10 points in the last two minutes as the Heels kept fighting but the damage was done.

“We were finally able to get some stops,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We’re good offensively and we got into rhythm.”

Brey said he’s not sure any other team can get into a rhythm like that. “We got really cocky,” he said.

The Tar Heels, who shot 53 percent from the floor themselves, surely had some confidence early in the second half when they erased a five-point halftime deficit. Carolina went on a 9-0 run out of the lockerroom as their offense was fluid and their defense forcing turnovers. Just like that, the Tar Heels were up by four at 43-39 three minutes into the second half.

A Paige three from the top of the key gave Carolina its biggest lead to that point at 48-41 with 15 minutes left.

A Joel Berry three and an assist from Berry to Brice Johnson gave the Tar Heels a nine-point cushion with 11:33 left. But Notre Dame was just two minutes away from its winning barrage.

The three-point and free throw lines played a big part in this one as Notre Dame scored 30 points from beyond the arc and 28 from the free throw line. They were 10 of 20 from three and 28 of 32 from the line. By comparison, Carolina got to the line just seven times.

UNC coach Roy Williams said it was difficult to guard the Irish as they would penetrate and get fouled or kick it back out for a three. And during that stretch, “their defense got stronger after every basket,” he said.

Without getting a bye as the fifth seed, Carolina had to play four games in four days but Williams said fatigue had nothing to do with it. “We did some good things for three days and about 30 or 32 minutes today,” he said.

“We had a bad stretch tonight,” he said but, “this team has a chance to make a really good run (in the NCAA Tournament).”

The 24-11 Tar Heels, who were led by Paige’s 24 points and Johnson’s 20 points, wait to find their NCAA seeding Sunday afternoon. The Irish, now 29-5, had all five starters in double figures with Jerian Grant (24) and Connaughton (20) leading the way.



Tar Heels shoot down top seed UVA


Justin Jackson.

North Carolina shot the ball better than any team has against the defensive juggernaut Virginia Cavaliers and the Tar Heels got by the top-seeded Cavs 71-67 in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament.

The Tar Heels, behind freshman Justin Jackson’s season-high 22 points, shot nearly 55 percent against the Cavaliers. Jackson went eight of 10, including four of five from beyond the three-point line.

But it took a play by junior Marcus Paige to put the Cavaliers away. After Virginia had cut a 13-point Carolina lead to just one with less than a minute to go, the Tar Heels were having trouble finding a good shot so UNC coach Roy Williams called a time out with 47 seconds left and only six left on the shot clock.

Paige worked his way into the lane, faked a defender and floated one in to give the Heels a three-point cushion at 65-62.

While Coach Williams said Jackson was great, “That was the play of the game,” he said.

The Tar Heels, who had hit only 12 of 21 free throws to that point, wrapped up the game by sinking six straight free throws.

Carolina led by as many as 10 points in the first half and settled for a 30-23 advantage at the half. In the second half, Carolina went on an 8-0 run early, highlighted by a Jackson three right in front of the UNC bench, that put the Heels up by 13 at 40-27.

Virginia managed to get it down to seven before Carolina went on an 8-2 run, which ended on Jackson runner in the lane that put the Heels up 51-38 with 8:25 left.

But first-team All-ACC player Malcolm Brogdon took over the game at that point and almost single-handedly beat the Tar Heels.

In less than a minute, Brogdon scored on an old-fashioned three-point play and then hit a three-point shot to cut the lead to seven wth 7:28 to play.

The Tar Heels were hanging on to an eight-point lead with five minutes to go at 58-50 when Brogdon went on another, bigger spurt. He scored 12 points in a row over the next four minutes to draw the Cavs to within a point at 63-62 with 1:17 to play.

That’s when Paige hit the shot in the lane at the end of the shot clock and Brice Johnson, Jackson and Paige sank six consecutive free throws to end it. Paige ended with 14 points while Johnson had 13.

“We made some big plays down the stretch,” Coach Williams said.

He said defensively the Tar Heels played one of its best games. “While we made some mistakes, we were more active, more aggressive in pressuring,” he said.

The Tar Heels, now 24-10, play at 8:30 p.m. Saturday for the ACC title. The 29-3 Cavaliers, who may get a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, were led by Brodgon’s 25 points.