A 3-pointer by Harrison Barnes, a jumper by Dexter Strickland and a final 3-ball from Reggie Bullock put the game out of the Badgers’ reach despite some late 3-pointers by Wisconsin and sent the Tar Heels looking forward to Saturday’s match against No. 1 Kentucky.
North Carolina entered the game as a 60.7 percent free-throw shooting team. But the team went 16-of-18 in the second half, which off-set its season-worst 42.2 field-goal percentage.
UNC couldn’t stop the 3-pointer against UNLV on Saturday in the 90-80 loss in Las Vegas. UNC still struggled to get to Wisconsin shooters on the perimeter, but fortunately for the Tar Heels, the Badgers couldn’t take advantage of the open looks and went 3-of-15 from deep in the first half.
Harrison Barnes got off to a slow start after a sprained ankle put him on crutches after Saturday’s game and earlier in the week made him questionable for Wednesday’s game. He started 0-for-2 with two missed jumpers and a turnover in the paint before sinking his first shot with 11 minutes left in the first half.
Barnes finished Wednesday with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
UNC jumped to an early 12-5 lead with the help of an 8-0 run but cooled as the game continued. That was due to Wisconsin’s slower-paced style of play, which contrasts sharply with the up-tempo game of the Tar Heels.
Wisconsin hadn’t shot below 42 percent in a game all season, but at halftime the Badgers were shooting 32 percent and finished the game at 36 percent.
But despite the Tar Heels’ strong defensive efforts for much of the first half, the home team didn’t hit a field goal for a six-minute stretch late in the half and led only 25-24 at the break.
In the second half, Wisconsin went on a 10-2 run to get a 36-31 lead for its largest of the game. But a Barnes’ 3-pointer with 11:40 left to play followed by the free throws brought the Tar Heels back into the game.
“This tested our mental toughness and how we can bounce back from a big loss like (UNLV) and play a great team and get the win,” Strickland said. “We wanted to prove everybody wrong. People started doubting us because we lost to UNLV and we just came to bring it tonight.”
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