The 6th seeded North Carolina Tar Heels snuck by the feisty 11th seeded Providence Friars, 79-77 in their 2nd round matchup Friday night. Carolina is now set to face the #3 seeded Iowa State Cyclones, in what should be a very entertaining game Sunday. But before I turn my focus to that contest, here’s a few takeaways from the thriller against Providence.
Dribble penetration remains an issue: Providence’s star point guard Bryce Cotton lived in the lane all night long. He scored his 36 points in a variety of ways and time after time he broke down the UNC defense, which allowed him to get to the rim or get teammates open looks. Cotton’s penetration resulted in him getting 8 assists and it could have easily been more. I don’t expect the Tar Heels to suddenly fix this problem overnight, however Ol’ Roy needs to find a temporary solution because Iowa State’s point guard DeAndre Kane loves to get into the lane and kick the ball out to shooters.
Brice Johnson found his game: The sophomore from South Carolina chose a great time to have his best game in quite a while. Brice had 16 huge points and 8 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive glass. Johnson also played a solid game defensively. He had 4 blocks and proved to be the only Tar Heel rim protector. Johnson showed toughness on both ends and he was the all important X-factor. This is a good sign for Carolina and if he brings that type of game Sunday, it will likely result in a Sweet 16 berth.
Rebounding was the difference in the game: UNC got back to dominating the backboards, and it’s no coincidence they won. Carolina won the rebounding battle 40-26, including a couple of offensive boards by James Michael McAdoo in the final seconds that sealed the deal. In the Heels previous 2 outings they got beat up on the glass by Duke and Pittsburgh and we saw the result. In this game they attacked the glass, boxed out and most importantly they gave the effort. James Michael grabbed 10, Brice had 8 and everyone else pitched in. It’s a good thing because UNC need every one of those 40 rebounds.
The Tar Heels showed toughness: Carolina had a 9 point lead (58-49) with 11 minutes left, then Providence went on an 11-0 run to take 2 point lead 60-58. The Friars went on to take a 6 point lead with 5 and change left on the clock – so the Tar Heels were on the ropes. But they didn’t get knocked out. This resealant bunch hung in there and lived to fight another day. Marcus Paige struggled from downtown for most of this game but as usual he was there when it counted, making two game tying 3 pointers within the last 3 minutes. James Michael McAdoo was nails as well. He not only had double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds), but he also stepped up to the free throw line and made the eventual game winning points. And who can forget about the key offensive board, he grabbed in traffic that lead to the free throw opportunitys. Or the one he got after the missed foul shot. UNC Basketball had its ups and downs in this game but they never folded and showed once again they don’t have a glass jaw.