New York Colleges: North Carolina Tar Heels

Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 76, UNC 69

March, 27, 2011

Recap | Box score

NEWARK, N.J. -- A quick take on Kentucky's 76-69 win over North Carolina on Sunday at the Prudential Center:

WHAT IT MEANS: Kentucky, the No. 4 seed, wins the NCAA tournament East Regional and advances to the Final Four by knocking off the No. 2 seed, North Carolina. For Kentucky, it's the first Final Four since 1998 -- ending the longest Final Four drought in the history of the program. The Wildcats had lost in the Elite Eight four straight times since then, including last season.

North Carolina fails to advance to the Final Four for a record-setting 19th time. The Tar Heels had faced the Wildcats twice before in the NCAA tournament -- both times in the Elite Eight -- and had won both times.

THE SKINNY: The first half of this game was dominated by Kentucky. After falling behind 4-2, the Wildcats were the much better team -- leading by as many as eight, which was the halftime margin, 38-30. Kentucky's swarming defense held North Carolina to 36.7 percent shooting (11-for-30), and power forward John Henson picked up his third foul with 6:39 left before intermission. On offense, Kentucky did not slow it down against the run-and-gun Tar Heels, as many expected the Wildcats would. Instead, they looked to attack on the fast break, and did so effectively. They also drained six of their 11 first-half 3-point attempts.

It took Kentucky almost three minutes to score its first point of the second half, but once it did, it jumped out to its largest lead of the game, 47-36, with 16:02 left. North Carolina kept making comeback runs, and Kentucky kept answering the bell. The Tar Heels actually tied it up at 67 with 3:18 remaining on a pair of Tyler Zeller free throws -- but they were never able to take the lead. A Brandon Knight trey with 2:51 remaining gave the Cats the lead for good, and the biggest shot of the game was a DeAndre Liggins trey with 35.6 seconds remaining that pushed a 70-69 lead to 73-69.

STAR WATCH: Knight -- who hit two game-winning shots in the first three games of this tournament, including on Friday night against Ohio State -- was the best player in this game, scoring 22 points, including five 3-pointers. Four other Kentucky players chipped in 12 or 11.

For North Carolina, Zeller had 21 and Harrison Barnes finished with 18, but Barnes really struggled with his shot.

NUMBER CRUNCH: Kentucky made 12 of 22 3-pointers (54.5 percent) -- shooting even better from beyond the arc than it did inside of it (48.2). That was the difference in the game. North Carolina made just three of 16 from beyond the arc.

WHAT'S NEXT: Kentucky will play UConn -- the No. 3 seed from the West Regional -- on Saturday night in Houston, with a spot in this year's national championship game on the line.

North Carolina heads home to Chapel Hill -- its season is over.

Rapid Reaction: UNC 81, Marquette 63

March, 25, 2011

Recap | Box score

NEWARK, N.J. -- A quick take on North Carolina's 81-63 win over Marquette on Friday night at the Prudential Center:

WHAT IT MEANS: The No. 2-seeded Tar Heels (29-7) overpowered the No. 11-seeded Golden Eagles (22-15) in the NCAA tournament East Regional semifinals. After not making the Big Dance a season ago, North Carolina has secured a spot in this year's Elite Eight. UNC has now won 10 straight Sweet 16 games dating back to 1993, the second-longest such streak in NCAA tournament history (UCLA won 12 straight from 1964 to 1976).

Marquette failed in its bid to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003, when it was led by Dwyane Wade. With the Golden Eagles departing, 10 of the 11 Big East teams that qualified for this tournament have been eliminated -- only UConn remains.

THE SKINNY: Marquette hung with North Carolina for the first 10 minutes or so, even taking a 10-8 lead with 12:43 remaining on a Jae Crowder lay-in. But the Tar Heels launched a 19-0 run from that point and ended up outscoring the Golden Eagles 32-5 the rest of the half, taking a 40-15 lead at intermission. Tyler Zeller and John Henson had 12 points apiece for UNC, while Marquette shot 6-for-30 (20 percent), 0-for-8 from 3-point range and committed 12 turnovers. Assist totals at the half? Carolina 9, Marquette 0. Enough said.

(The 15 first-half points was the second-fewest North Carolina has ever allowed in an NCAA tournament game. The fewest? Eight, versus Pittsburgh in 1941.)

The Tar Heels picked up where they left off after the break, with an 11-3 run to take their largest lead of the game, 51-18. With a margin that great, it's tough for a team to continue to go full-throttle, and North Carolina took its foot off the gas. Marquette kept plugging away -- as you'd expect a team coached by Buzz Williams would -- and got the deficit all the way down to 14 with under five minutes remaining. But that's as close as the Golden Eagles came. North Carolina was never threatened.

STAR WATCH: North Carolina's imposing front of line of the 7-foot Zeller, the 6-foot-10 Henson, and the 6-foot-8 Harrison Barnes imposed its will on this undersized Marquette squad. Zeller had a monster game, with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Henson also had a double-double, with 14 points and 12 boards. Barnes had 20 points and nine rebounds, and point guard Kendall Marshall had seven points and seven assists.

For Marquette, four players were in double-figures -- led by reserve forward Davante Gardner, who had 16 points.

NUMBER CRUNCH: Marquette was the No. 33 shooting team in the country coming in, making 46.8 percent from the floor. On Friday night, the Golden Eagles shot just 36.5 percent (23-for-63). Also, Marquette was No. 23 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3-to-1) -- on Friday night it had 18 turnovers, and only eight assists.

WHAT'S NEXT: North Carolina will play No. 4 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Marquette flies home to Milwaukee -- its season is over.

Rapid Reaction: North Carolina 78, Rutgers 55

December, 28, 2010
NEW YORK -- A quick take on North Carolina's 78-55 win over Rutgers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

WHAT IT MEANS: Rutgers sees its six-game winning streak snapped, and drops to 9-3 on the season. This was obviously a game Rutgers was not expected to win -- nonetheless, coach Mike Rice and company won't be happy that they were blown out of the Garden.

North Carolina improves to 9-4 on the season.

FROM THE GET-GO: North Carolina ripped off a 12-0 run over a five-minute stretch early in the first half, jumping out to a 14-2 lead -- Rutgers was attempting to climb a mountain the rest of the way. The first half was utter domination -- the Tar Heels led 42-22 at the break. North Carolina shot 17-for-30 from the field (Rutgers was 9-for-30) and doubled up the Scarlet Knights on the boards, 22-11.

MORE OF THE SAME: The closest Rutgers got in the second half was within 15 points, very early on. North Carolina used its bench extensively, yet still increased its lead. The Scarlet Knights continued to expend a lot of energy, but to no avail.

Leslie McDonald led the Tar Heels with 14 points off the bench, connecting on four of his seven 3-point attempts. Jonathan Mitchell had 20 points for the Scarlet Knights -- no other player had more than eight.

TALENT GAP: To put it bluntly, North Carolina was more talented at every position on the floor. At best, a couple Rutgers players might get a few minutes off the bench for the Tar Heels. But with the tenacious defense the Scarlet Knights have been playing under Rice, you thought they might be able to at least hang with the Tar Heels. Alas, that was not to be.

WHAT'S NEXT: It only gets tougher for Rutgers -- its next game is at No. 8 Villanova on Sunday, its first Big East game of the season. North Carolina returns home to face St. Francis (PA) on Sunday, before opening ACC play.

Rutgers vs. North Carolina -- a preview

December, 28, 2010
Rutgers has a chance to make a statement on a national stage Tuesday night, when it takes on North Carolina at Madison Square Garden.

Tip-off is at 9 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN2 and will be there.

The Scarlet Knights are 9-2 on the season, and have won six games in a row, heading into their final nonconference clash before Big East play begins. Under first-year coach Mike Rice, Rutgers is off to its best start with a new head coach since it opened up 10-2 under Donald S. White in 1945-46.

Rutgers features a very balanced offensive attack -- its leading scorer, 6-foot-7 senior forward Jonathan Mitchell, averages just 12.0 points per game. Three other starters average between 9.3 and 10.9 ppg. As a team, the Scarlet Knights average just 69 points per game.

The key for the Scarlet Knights will be to defend. In their nine wins, Rutgers has given up 65 points or less. Rutgers is second in the Big East, allowing just 58.2 ppg.

North Carolina comes in with a record of 8-4 -- the Tar Heels have been ranked as high as No. 8 in the country this season, but are currently unranked. In their last outing, they defeated William & Mary 85-60 on Dec. 21. Prior to that, they lost to No. 25 Texas, 78-76 in Greensboro, N.C.

The Tar Heels are led by 7-foot junior Tyler Zeller, who averages 15.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, shooting better than 50 percent from the field. Zeller could cause Rutgers big problems -- the Scarlet Knights don't have a starter taller than 6-foot-8.

North Carolina also features 6-foot-8 forward Harrison Barnes, the first freshman ever named to the Associated Press Preseason All-American team. Barnes has had an up-and-down first season, currently averaging 12.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.