North Carolina lived to fight another day on Friday night after defeating Providence 79-77 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels faced off with a Providence team that just would not go away and one that made life really stressful for Tar Heel fans across the state. But in March, its all about surviving and advancing, and the Tar Heels did just that in a thriller in San Antonio.
The game was back and forth from the start, with neither team able to establish tempo or a comfortable lead. When James Michael McAdoo went out with two fouls early in the first half, things didn’t look good for Carolina, but UNC’s deep reserves all pitched in with key contributions off the bench. UNC was up 39-36 when the horn sounded at the end of the first half.
In the second half, the intensity and level of play picked up for both teams. Senior Bryce Cotton made it his mission for this to not be the end of his college career, scoring a majority of his 36 points in the second half to keep Providence in the game. But down the stretch, key plays by all members of UNC’s rotation proved to be just enough to edge out the Friars. James Michael McAdoo sealed the deal at the foul line with two second left, and the Tar Heels advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Providence started hot from the field and never really cooled off, finishing the night shooting 28-53 for 52.8%. Bryce Cotton led all scorers with 36 points and forwards Tyler Harris and LaDontae Henton each added in 13 and 16 points respectively.
For UNC, Marcus Paige led the Heels with 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting. Four other Tar Heels scored double digits, including Brice Johnson off the bench, who would finish with 16 points. UNC won the rebounding battle 40-26 and the offensive rebounding battle 21-9.
UNC plays Sunday afternoon in the Round of 32 against the winner of Iowa State and NC Central.