Tag Archives: NCAA Basketball

UNC overcomes another slow start, advances to Sweet Sixteen

Mar 17, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) celebrates on the court during the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at PNC Arena. The Tar Heels won 83-67. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) celebrates on the court during the second half against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles at PNC Arena. The Tar Heels won 83-67. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

RALEIGH — For the second game in a row, Roy Williams implored his team to wake up minutes after the opening tip.

And for the second game in a row, the No. 1-seeded North Carolina men’s basketball team responded with a big second half to put away a pesky lower-seeded team.

This time No. 9-seed Providence (24-11) was the casualty as UNC used a 29-6 run to break a 41-41 tie and grab a 85-66 win in the second round of the East Region.

With the win, UNC earns a berth in the Sweet Sixteen for the 27th time in school history.

“I don’t know what it is, but it’s just crazy that we can turn it on when we want to,” point guard Joel Berry said.

“Last game in the first half we came out the same way a little bit. I think this game we turned it on in the second half and we just have to learn we have to turn it on in the first half. We can take a lot of teams out of the game if we can do that.”

Against Florida Gulf Coast Thursday night, UNC led by only a point at halftime as the Eagles shot 60 percent in the first half. But in the second half, the Tar Heels locked in on defense to hold FGCU to 43.1 percent for the game.

In Saturday night’s game, UNC got up by as many as seven points before allowing Providence to go on an 8-0 run even with Big East Player of the Year Kris Dunn on the bench in foul trouble. The Friars briefly took a three-point lead before Berry erased it with a triple with 5:30 left in the first half.

UNC kept Providence without a field goal for the final 5:50 and looked to be putting the Friars behind them until the Friars came out hot with the first six points of the second half.

“You know, we came out in the second half, somebody told me, they said, ‘boy whatever you told them at half two nights ago, I hope you told them again,’” coach Roy Williams said. “I did. The other night we started out great, and this time they went 6-0. That’s how well my pep talks are going.”

Though Dunn still went off for 29 points, with few adjustments in the opening minutes of the second half, the Tar Heels kept him relatively in check.

“Marcus was guarding Dunn in the first half and he was pulling up and shooting over Marcus,” Berry said. “He’s a big point guard. We ended up switching Justin on him and giving him more size, and we knew he was going to try to be aggressive coming out in the second half because he sat most of the first half and I think we did a pretty good job of containing him.”

UNC also limited big man Bentil by throwing a rotation of Brice Johnson and other post players at him throughout the game.

Bentil finished with 21 points, but the rest of Providence’s team struggled to give its two stars much support.

Dunn and Bentil were the only two Friars in double figures, and the next highest scorer, Kyron Cartwright, checked in with seven points.

And as UNC contained Providence, the Tar Heels’ own offense flourished in the second half.

“I think any time we go on runs, (defense is) the biggest thing,” Jackson said. “Because when we get stops, we can get out in transition even more, which is where we’re at our best. And when we’re forcing them just to one shot, it’s hard to score every single possession on one shot. When we can do that, we’re a whole different team.”

Led by Johnson’s 21 points, five UNC players finished in double figures, coming at the Friars in relentless waves.

And in the second half, UNC hit 60 percent of its shots to outscore Providence 51-36.

“You can’t win with depth in the first 10 minutes of the game,” said Paige, who scored 12 points. “You’ve kind of got to keep grinding it out and that’s what we talked about and then eventually we were able to get the tempo back in our favor.”

UNC still isn’t quite sure why it’s taking so long to get rolling in the beginning of NCAA Tournament games, but Jackson, who scored 15 points, believes the team nearly has it all together — especially important ahead of the Tar Heels’ meeting with uptempo No. 5 seed Indiana Friday.

“I think we came out a little bit stronger this game but not as strong as we wanted to,” Jackson said. “So from here on out, we have to come out strong all 40 minutes because the competition just gets better and better. If we can do that, we’ll be alright.”

Ricky Council II comes home

RALEIGH — Ricky Council II didn’t record a single minute of playing time in Providence’s buzzer-beating win against USC Thursday night, but the freshman might have had the loudest cheering section in the arena.

A Durham native and Northern Durham product, Council was thrilled that the NCAA selection committee sent the Friars to play the opening rounds of the East Regional in Raleigh.

Council spends most of his time 670 miles away from home, so the prospect of playing 30 minutes away from his family was an unexpected, yet exciting development.

“It’s a blessing actually,” Council said after the 70-69 win. “It’s something I never thought would happen, going away to Providence.

“I went to Providence because they’re a winning team and a winning culture. So coming back here and actually playing in Raleigh right down the street from my house is amazing.”

The large group there to see Council — six family members, Northern Durham assistant basketball coach Thomas McKoy, Northern Durham principal Matt Hunt and a close friend — got more than just a reunion, they also saw history made as Providence earned its first win in the NCAA tournament since 1997.

“I could hear them and see them way before the game started,” he said with a grin. “I knew where they were sitting and I kept looking up there. It’s an amazing experience to get an NCAA win, especially for this school to get the first one in a while.”

McKoy had been planning to travel to New York City for the Big East Tournament final but when Providence (24-10) lost to Villanova in the semifinals, he thought he might have missed his chance to see Council in person.

“The fact that they actually ended up in Raleigh this week was amazing,” McKoy said.

After starring at Northern and nearly helping the team to a state title in his senior season, Council has assumed a new role at Providence as he waits his turn behind a cast of talented and veteran guards. The 6-foot-5 freshman, who spent a year playing at Moravian Prep before going to Providence, has scored 14 points in 13 games off the bench.

“I think what’s really impressive about Ricky to me is that his entire life, he’s typically the best player on the court,” Hunt said. “And he handled that with dignity and grace and was always respectful of teammates and coaches, and if you were to have a conversation with him, you’d have no idea he’s a basketball star in high school because of how humble he is.

“It’s rare to find somebody that was a star and now he’s in a situation where he’s got to wait his turn. They’ve got a guard on the team that’s NBA talent, probably a few of them. He’s not getting a lot of playing time, but he’s handling that as well as he possibly can it handle, with the same characteristics. It’s hard to find somebody that can be a great teammate when they’re a star and a great teammate when they’re not and they’re waiting their turn.”

And after Providence’s thrilling win, Council’s family and friends will get another chance to see the hometown product, this time as No. 9 seed Providence goes up against No. 1 seed North Carolina (9:40 p.m., TBS).

“I actually attended UNC,” McKoy said. “But for tomorrow, I’ll definitely be pulling for Ricky.”

Beware the Providence Friar

RALEIGH — No. 1 seed North Carolina tips off against No. 9 seed Providence Saturday night at 9:40.
You know what that means?
This guy will likely be the last thing you see before you go to sleep.

Nightmare city, right?
Look at those lifeless eyes. That silent scream.

Forget Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil.
The scariest thing about Providence will be sitting on the baseline, waiting to suck out the souls of everyone in PNC Arena.
UNC last saw the Friar two years ago in San Antonio and lived to tell the tale.
That’s not an easily forgotten face, but Kennedy Meeks seemingly blocked it from his memory.
“No, I’ve never seen their mascot before but I’m looking forward to seeing it, though,” he said.
Think again, Meeks, you’re going to regret making eye contact when it levitates over to you midgame.
Theo Pinson hadn’t seen him/it either, but when showed a picture, he was speechless.
“I have not noticed that at all,” the sophomore said. “That’s crazy. That probably helps them out a little bit when they go play other teams. But that’s a pretty interesting mascot.”
Interesting is a nice way to put it.
Fellow sophomore Nate Britt had a similar reaction when he got his first look at the Friar.
“That is scary,” Britt said, nervously laughing. “I would not, I feel that’s … nevermind. I don’t want to say anything bad about their mascot that someone might not like but I don’t know. That’s different. I’ll just say that’s different.”
The Friar isn’t the only mascot that UNC’s faced that puts the team on edge. Pinson said he’s not a huge fan of Syracuse’s Otto the Orange, and of course, he doesn’t like the Duke Blue Devil.
For Britt, the caricatured human mascots are the most off-putting. Looking at you, Demon Deacon.

“I think it’s kind of cool how he comes out on a motorcycle before games,” Britt said. “The Harley, that’s pretty intense and it gets loud in there before the games start. I don’t know, it’s just different. Just like Providence is a little bit different.”
Again, different is putting it kindly.
Thanks to the UNC players for being good sports about this very important line of questioning, and sorry if you see this guy in your dreams tonight.