KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After trailing by two at the half, the North Carolina men’s basketball team fell to Auburn, 97-80, after the Tigers had a lights-out second-half showing in 3-point shooting.
With the win, the Tigers have made only their second Elite Eight in program history, while the Tar Heels finish one victory shy of their 14th 30-win season.
With a spot in the Elite Eight on the line, things were tight from the start.
After UNC led 5-2 early, neither team could separate itself from the other for much of the first half. Both the Tar Heels and Tigers ran the floor at break-neck speed, scoring 14 combined points before even two minutes of gametime had passed.
Even still, head coach Roy Williams motioned for his team to run the floor faster on multiple occasions, looking for a chance to take command over the game. Despite times when both teams played well and went on scoring runs, UNC and Auburn were all tied at 26-26 with seven minutes left the half.
A big 3-pointer by Kenny Williams put the Tar Heels up by three with 6:37 left before the break before the Tigers brought things close again. Neither team led by more than five points at any point in the half.
At the break, Auburn led in field goal percentage, points off turnover, offensive rebounds, second chance points, bench points and points in the paint. Spacing the floor well with efficient passing helped Auburn do that.
Even more than that, the Tigers kept the program with the best rebounding margin in the country from finding an advantage on the boards, as the teams were tied 21-21 in rebounds through the first 20 minutes.