North Carolina survives to beat Arkansas 72-65
Kennedy Meeks had 16 points and a huge tip-in with 44.2 seconds left to help North Carolina barely avoid a huge upset by rallying to beat Arkansas 72-65 in Sunday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Jackson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (29-7), including the dunk that capped a game-closing 12-0 run by the South Region’s No. 1 seed to help it survive a wild game. North Carolina led by 17 points after a dominating start, blew that lead and trailed 6560 with about 3 1/2 minutes left then came up with a response befitting its veteran experience.
Isaiah Hicks came up big late, too, with a dunk and four free throws in the final 2 minutes to help UNC survive.
Daryl Macon scored 19 points to lead the eighth-seeded Razorbacks (26-10), who did everything right in the second half — except close out the Tar Heels.
The Razorbacks had UNC wobbling with their aggressive, mistake-forcing defense harassing the Tar Heels all over the court. And when Jaylen Barford scored in transition off a turnover, Arkansas led 65-60 with 3:28 left.
But the Tar Heels — loaded with returnees from a team that played in last year’s national championship game — responded in a huge way.
Joel Berry II hit two free throws with 2:56 left, Jackson found Hicks for a dunk, then Hicks hit two free throws after being fouled on a rebound to put UNC up 66-65 with 1:44 left.
S. Carolina upsets Duke 88-81
Sindarius Thornwell had 24 points, Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and seventh-seeded South Carolina stunned No. 2 seed Duke 88-81 on Sunday night to advance to its first Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament’s expanded bracket.
The Gamecocks (24-10) trailed by 10 points early in the second half after one of its coldest shooting stretches of the season to start.
But behind Thornwell’s outside shooting and Silva’s dominance underneath, South Carolina rallied to win two NCAA games for the first time in 44 years.
The Gamecocks rushed to their fans when things were over, celebrating one of the biggest wins in program history.
Next up is the East Regional at Madison Square Garden where the Gamecocks will face third-seeded Baylor, an 82-78 winner over Southern Cal earlier Sunday.
Duke (28-9) was attempting to reach the round of 16 for the sixth time in eight seasons. The Blue Devils, though, could not surmount South Carolina’s stifling defense. Leading scorer Luke Kennard had his second straight subpar shooting game, finishing 1 of 6 for 11 points before fouling out.