This is a big problem with the notion that North Carolina is weak against top-tier competitors. After knocking out the defending champions, these Tar Heels will be going to the Sweet 16.
It wasn’t an easy task. After Brady Manek’s wild elbow and Caleb Love’s fouled out, the Tar Heels lost a 25 point lead in the second half. They also had issues with Baylor’s full-court pressure. They never lost the lead, played with poise and won a 93-86 win Saturday in round two of the NCAA Tournament.
Armando Bacot, All-Atlantic Coast Conference power forward, stated that “all year we’ve just heard different things about us,” referring to how they’re a soft group and how they don’t like fighting. “Today, I believe we proved that we can fight. It’s amazing to see everyone persevere in such a moment and come together.
RJD scored a career high 30 points and made a clever layup in overtime. After missing three free throws in the final 38 seconds, Bacot made the tiebreaking free shots. Bacot scored 15 points and had 16 rebounds. He also blocked three shots.
The Tar Heels (26-9), a year after losing the first round in Roy Williams’ last game, pulled off a surprise for Hubert Davis, his successor. He will now be moving on to the East Region semifinals at Philadelphia.
“Baylor is a great team. Davis stated that they are the defending national champions and didn’t want to go home. They stepped up their efforts, but we also stepped up our effort and were able make the plays that we needed to win the game.
The overtime started with Dontrez Styles’ 3-pointer. He was only 2 of 14 from long range the season before. RJ Davis, who scored five 3-pointers in regulation had his only point in overtime. He added the free throw to give him a 91-85 advantage.
“I didn’t want to go back home.” Davis stated that there was no time for fatigue. “Our mentality was to gather our teammates and regroup, and to keep our composure. Let’s win this game!”
Baylor’s Adam Flagler scored 27 points (27-7), and was 1-of-11 in overtime. James Akinjo scored 20 points, while Jeremy Sochan added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Tar Heels were crowned No. For the third time, they won as a No. 8 seed. They won the Final Four in 2000 after defeating Oklahoma top-seeded 10 years earlier.
North Carolina suffered double-digit losses against Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest. It was also on the NCAA bubble. The team had won seven of its eight regular-season games before that. This included a win at Duke of 94 to 81 in Mike Krzyzewski’s last home game.
Baylor lost in round two for the second consecutive NCAA tournament. The Bears lost to Gonzaga in round 32 three years back. They were trying to make a match for the greatest comeback to win an NCAA Tournament tournament game.
Coach Scott Drew, fighting back tears, said that Rudy Tomjanovich said it the best: Never underestimate the heart of champion.” “You can go down 25 and then come back to force overtime. These guys are truly inspirational and I am proud of their determination. They showed perseverance and resilience throughout the year. They’re a wonderful group spiritually. They have really grown. Although we didn’t win on court, we have won in our lives.”
Manek scored 26 points before being ejected for a flagrant foul at 10:08 in regulation. He had thrown his left elbow into Sochan’s face while they were fighting under the Baylor basket. Manek had just made a 3-pointer, giving the Tar Heels a 67-42 lead.
Manek was out and Love soon thereafter, the Tar Heels had ten turnovers. Baylor increased the pressure and staged a wild rally.
Bacot stated, “It was crazy because their presses, they were turning us over a LOT and then we weren’t making free throws.” There was a lot pressure during those moments. It was just a next play mentality. We just had to keep our heads up and push through. We were able to win, and that was a good thing.
A three-point play by the Bears brought them within 76-73. Akinjo had 1:48 remaining to make the final point. Akinjo had one more with 16 seconds remaining to tie it at 80-80. North Carolina had one more chance, but Davis’ 3-point attempt missed the front of the rim.
Flagler stated, “We knew that the team was not going to give up,”
Baylor scored 11 consecutive points in under two minutes following Manek’s expulsion. Sochan made the second free shot before Flagler assisted him on a layup. Flagler then scored consecutive 3s against UNC turnovers. After Bacot was fouled, the Bears were within 67-53. Akinjo made two free throws and Flagler assisted on a layup by Flagler.
Things became heated midway through the second half. Sochan was given a technical foul for appearing to lock his legs together, almost pulling Bacot to the ground with him.
North Carolina: Ex-coach Williams was in Dickies Arena in North Carolina, less than 100 miles from Baylor. Davis scored the Tar Heels first eight points within an 80 second span. This came after the Bears took a quick 4-0 lead. North Carolina never lost again. Baylor tied it just before regulation ended and once in overtime.
Baylor: In the last 10 minutes of regulation, the Bears outscored North Carolina by 38-13. They were just short of matching BYU which overcome a 25-point deficit in the first half to defeat Iona in a First Four match in 2012.
A LOT OF HELPERS
Two days after Marquette’s 29 assists on 34 baskets, North Carolina had 22 assists in its 28 field goals. Davis was the Tar Heels’ first player to record 10 assists in a NCAA tourney match and 30 points the next. He had six assists against Baylor and was tied with Leaky Black as the team’s leading scorer.
North Carolina will face off against Saint Mary’s or UCLA in the 35th Sweet 16.