In their first ever meeting, the No. 8 seed North Carolina men’s basketball team beat No. 1 Baylor in an overtime thriller, 93-86, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament.
The Tar Heels found themselves down early, struggling to get things going against the stout Baylor defense. Sophomore guard R.J. Davis broke the ice with shot clock buzzer three and knocked down another triple in the following possession to give UNC the lead.
Davis was hot — hitting a long two in the next possession to cap off a 8-0 run by himself before a Baylor timeout.
Others got involved, including sophomore guard Caleb Love hitting his first three and Armando Bacot getting his first bucket from the floor with 13 minutes to go in the half.
Things got chippy between Bacot and Baylor's Jeremy Sochan after Bacot was called for an offensive foul. After an official review, Sochan was warranted a technical foul after entangling with Bacot’s legs while he was walking away from the paint.
Davis' hot hand kept it raining right after with a transition three to put his scoring total over double digits as well. But Baylor started to claw back, getting consecutive buckets to cut the lead back under 10.
The Tar Heels remained on top through the next few minutes, though, as both teams struggled to get anything to fall. UNC looked to the foul line to extend the advantage — driving and cutting to the lane for fouls at the basket.
Down the stretch to halftime, the lead steadily grew. Following another three by Davis and a layup by first-year guard Dontrez Styles, the Tar Heels went into the half up 42-29.
With UNC trying to hold on and complete the upset and Baylor trying to come back in the game, the second half started off fast paced and highly competitive.
Although Baylor began to bring the lead down, UNC never stopped scoring — finding ways in transition, from the line and through tough shots such as Davis’ step-back fadeaway three to keep control of the game.
Manek put the dagger in them — knocking down a contested corner three and then forcing an offensive foul on the other side of the court with 12 minutes to go. At that point, the score was 61-38, and there seemed to be no hope left for the Bears — until Manek was ejected with a flagrant two foul with over 10 minutes to play.
Following his departure, Baylor went on a 9-0 run to cut the lead from 25 to 16. Bacot and Sochan got into it again on a loose ball, resulting in a double foul — and two fouls for Bacot, including a technical.
The lead hovered sound 16 until Love fouled out with six minutes to go. Then, Baylor cut the lead to nine after a 20-4 run with just over five minutes to go.
After struggling to beat the Baylor full court press, the Tar Heels held on to the lead — getting a break with a foul called on a Davis three. He made all three free throws to extend the lead to nine with two and a half minutes left.
But that was short lived. Baylor cut it to three after a triple and a three-point play. Bacot responded with a three-point play of his own on the other end. A few possessions later, he hit a clutch free throw to put UNC up 80-74 with 38 seconds left.
Then, Sochan hit a three 10 seconds later to make it a one-possession game. The game was knotted up after a following three-point play by James Akinjo.
On the final possession, Davis missed the game-winning jumper — sending the game into overtime.
UNC jumped out to a 84-80 lead after a Styles three and a Bacot free throw. It was quickly tied again, but a few big buckets and a Davis three-point play built the lead again to 6 with just over a minute left.
After holding on to the lead, the Tar Heels held on to win at the final buzzer.
Who stood out?
Davis flipped the script this game, being a scorer more than a distributor with 17 points and shooting 4-6 from three in the first half alone. He kept being unstoppable in the second half — finishing with a career high of 30 points and six assists.
Manek also brought the energy in a second straight outstanding performance. He finished the game with 26 points while also contributing on the defensive end with a couple of rebounds and forcing offensive fouls.
Bacot finished with another double-double and made clutch plays in the late stages of the game.
When was it decided?
This game was decided in the final minutes of overtime after a couple of clutch buckets kept UNC ahead of Baylor, despite losing Love and Manek.
Trailing by five with less than 20 seconds remaining, Baylor had a chance to trim the lead, but an airball all but sealed the Tar Heels' win.
Why does it matter?
Despite blowing a 25-point lead, UNC stayed poised under pressure and will now be dancing in the Sweet Sixteen. Since losing back-to-back road games in January, the Tar Heels have won 14 out of their last 17.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play the winner of St. Mary’s and UCLA on Friday night in Philadelphia.
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