Again, North Carolina fell behind early, but this time the comeback was steady as opposed to frantic. Nursing a four point lead with under a minute to play it looked like a trip to Newark was easily in hand when cool-handed freshman Harrison Barnes missed a point-blank shot and then, following another game changing defensive stop, freshman Kendal Marshall missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The miscues by the two rapidly rising Tar Heel stars set off a chain of events that led to a head-scratching victory and North Carolina’s record 24th trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
Tyler Zeller scored 23 points, Harrison Barnes added 22 and North Carolina survived a frantic finish to beat Washington on Sunday in the East region to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Rallying from deficits of 11 points in the first half and five in the second, the second-seeded Tar Heels (28-7) went ahead for good on Barnes’ three-pointer with 4:06 left. But they needed two free throws from Dexter Strickland and a defensive stop in the closing seconds to advance.
Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 14 for the seventh-seeded Huskies (24-11), who overcame a hostile crowd to nearly pull the upset in a fast-paced game full of entertaining plays and mental miscues down the stretch.
Following the timeout, 6-foot-10 John Henson knocked away the inbounds pass under the basket and the ball landed in Strickland’s hands.
Strickland hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds left, and Overton then launched a halfcourt shot with about
3 seconds remaining that fell well short. Instead of letting it go harmlessly out of bounds, though, Henson
touched the ball and gave the Huskies yet another chance.
The Huskies inbounded the ball to Thomas, who unloaded a shot from the corner. Henson inexplicably touched the ball just before it would have hit the rim and the Washington bench erupted for a goaltending
call—not that it would have mattered.
It turned out that Thomas had his foot on the 3-point line.
With Strickland in Thomas’ jersey all game, the dynamic point guard struggled from the field and finished with 12 points and eight assists
Two years removed from a national championship, North Carolina won its 25th straight NCAA tournament game in its home state a year after being relegated to the NIT.