The freshmen-led North Carolina Tar Heels sputtered to start the season, but followed their 4-3 beginning with a 25-4 record. Now, number two seed UNC is one game away from the Final Four after making quick work of the number 11 seed Marquette Golden Eagles, 81-63, in their Sweet Sixteen matchup on March 25.
Thanks in part to a 19-0 North Carolina run and 14 straight missed shots by Marquette, UNC raced to a 40-15 halftime lead and never looked back.
Marquette led 10-8 with 12:43 to go in the first half, but could only watch as UNC closed the half on a 32-5 run. Marquette didn’t score another basket in the first half until the 3:54 mark, a nearly nine-minute stretch. Junior forward Tyler Zeller led North Carolina with 27 points and 15 rebounds while freshman forward Harrison Barnes added 20 points and nine rebounds.
It was the ninth straight tournament win for North Carolina, who won the 2009 championship after being picked to win it all by President Obama. The Tar Heels missed last season’s tourney after a disappointing season but appear to be set on making amends for last year’s struggles.
“We played very well and we were very lucky because they had a lot of shots that normally they make that didn’t go in for them,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said in his postgame press conference. I looked up at the clock and it was 10-8 their favor, and the next time I looked at the clock is when I went off at halftime and it was 40-15. I knew we were doing very well to say the least.”