On Sunday evening, the No. 8 seed North Carolina men’s basketball team advanced to its first Final Four appearance since 2017’s national championship and ended No. 15 seed St. Peter’s Cinderella campaign by way of a 69-49 blowout.
A loud crowd, seemingly composed of more Peacock supporters than Tar Heel fans, packed into the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday evening. Despite the atmosphere, St. Peter’s got off to a slow start offensively for the first five minutes of the game. UNC held the Peacocks scoreless for more than four minutes to start the first half and held a 9-0 lead before St. Peter’s got on the board.
An improved St. Peter’s defense, which held North Carolina to just 12 points before the first media timeout at 11:40 of the first half, kept the Peacocks in the game despite their trouble scoring. At the 10-minute mark of the first half, it was UNC 17, St. Peter’s 7 and the Tar Heels had largely looked like the superior team. Yet still, they allowed the Peacocks to hang around.
In the final 10 minutes of the opening frame, UNC started to show its dominance. Just before the 5:33 mark, the Tar Heels led by nearly 20 points, 27-9. At halftime, UNC continued to control the game, as North Carolina went into the break leading 38-19.
The Tar Heels’ first half domination was due in large part to an impressive defensive performance in which they forced the Peacocks to shoot just 22 percent from the field and 1-11 from deep. St. Peter’s simply couldn’t put the ball through the net. At the break, a 19-point Tar Heel lead had sucked much of the energy out of the stadium as St. Peter’s bracket-busting run looked to be coming to an end.
In the second half, North Carolina’s impressive performance continued and St. Peter’s was incapable of keeping up. For much of the final 20 minutes, the lead hovered over 20 points. In the end, it was North Carolina who cut down the nets in Philadelphia. The Tar Heels won 69-49 to secure their spot in New Orleans.
Who stood out?
After struggling to produce on the offensive end in the second half against UCLA on Friday, graduate forward Brady Manek put together an impressive performance on Sunday. The Oklahoma transfer scored 19 points and shot an efficient 7-11 from the field.
Joining Manek with double-digits were forward Armando Bacot (20 points) and guard Caleb Love (14 points.)
Senior Leaky Black also led the way on defense, being a key contributor to the Tar Heels control on that end of the floor.
When was it decided?
After UNC built its lead over 20 points starting midway through the first half, the game was never close again. Throughout the final frame, North Carolina’s lead never seemed to be at risk.
Why does it matter?
In his first season as a head coach, Hubert Davis has led North Carolina to the Final Four. This victory over St. Peter’s, while avoiding an upset, continued the Tar Heels surprising NCAA tournament run. In February and for much of the year, this team sat in the bubble.
When the Tar Heels get to New Orleans, they’ll be facing Duke in what could be head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game. The contest will be a rubber match, as the two teams have split their series this year with the Tar Heels winning the most recent contest in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The two Tobacco Road rivals have never met in the NCAA Tournament before.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels and Blue Devils will meet in New Orleans on Saturday, April 2 for a chance to advance to the national championship game.
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