#1 UNC vs #8 ARKANSAS
Roy Williams summed it up in the postgame presser with three words: "we got lucky." The Tar Heels' play in the 2nd round was anything but inspired, dominating like it was in a 41-point win over Texas Southern in round one. The Heels made a lot of mistakes, very out of the ordinary for a championship-caliber club.
UNC made 17 turnovers, shot just 38% from the floor, and just 29% from 3-pt range. Joel Berry had another rough outing shooting. For the 4th straight game he was held to three buckets or less (2-13). Justin Jackson's shot wasn't falling either. He was 5-14 from the field.
It came down to the last three minutes, and a 12-0 Tar Heel run to vault the Heels to the Sweet Sixteen. Strangely, that run happened as the UNC faithful in the building got loud for the first time all night. Coincidence? As Joel Berry told me in the postgame, "it's hard to get involved when the team's not playing well." He said, "we played better and they got involved and it helped us out and it pushed us through."
ICYMI... an example of the foolishness on the floor for the Heels:
It was tied 50-50 at the 11:00 mark. The Heels forced an Arkansas shot clock violation and then Nate Britt immediately turns the ball over, heading down the floor. Arkansas takes it for a score. The next rip, Isaiah Hicks misses an easy layup, but is fouled. He misses one of his free throws. On the ensuing Razorback possession, UNC forces a turnover and Theo Pinson bobbles the transition pass off of his foot, setting up an Arkansas three.
Those types of things haven't been the "Carolina Way" this season, but they battled through, got lucky, and survived. Carolina now goes on to its 28th Sweet Sixteen. Roy Williams has been to the regional semifinals 18 times as a head coach. Nine with Kansas, nine with UNC.
UNC 72 ARKANSAS 65
#2 DUKE vs #7 SOUTH CAROLINA
The first half of the game was among the ugliest of the tournament. It's close to the competition in the first game of the day, UNC-Arkansas. The Blue Devils were scoreless for nearly 5 minutes at the end of the 1st half. SC hit 1 of their last 10 heading to the locker room.
As it did in the Marquette game two nights ago, South Carolina controlled the 2nd half. They were physical, they were hitting tough shots, fighting through contact, and grabbing rebounds left and right. The Gamecocks out-rebounded Duke 37-34, though the margin seemed a lot wider. From the 18 minute mark in the 2nd, to the 10:00 mark was some great back-and-forth basketball.
The arena was deafening at times, with both North Carolina and South Carolina fans reveling in the misfortunes of the Blue Devils. The Gamecock faithful were not able to pack the arena as much as Friday night, but they really didn't need to. The ones that made it, were plenty to cause disruption and boost momentum.
A great sample of the night's action started at 16:32 in the 2nd. Duke had a three point lead after SC went on a 6-0 run. Grayson Allen drilled a corner three, only to have Sindarius Thornwell answer at the other end, with a three of his own. Duke turned it over on their next possession, leading to a monster fast break dunk by Chris Silva. 38-37 Duke. An alley-oop to Silva on the next transition put SC up 39-38. Duke then reclaimed the lead on a Luke Kennard three-pointer. The Cocks' Thornwell answered with a three of his own. 42-41, with 14:42 left.
Down by two, South Carolina's P.J Dozier converts an and-one opportunity. The Gamecocks never looked back.
SOUTH CAROLINA 88 DUKE 81