Tar Heels step closer to get­ting foot in the 4


The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Clay Bai­ley

mem­phis, tenn.» North Carolina ex­pects strong of­fen­sive per­for­mances from ju­nior lead­ers Justin Jack­son and Joel Berry II, but Luke Maye pro­vided an un­ex­pected bonus.

Berry scored 26 points and Jack­son had 24, but it was the first ca­reer dou­ble-dou­ble from Maye — 16 points and 12 re­bounds — that helped set the tone early and send the top-seeded Tar Heels to a 92-80 vic­tory over But­ler in the NCAA Tour­na­ment’s Sweet 16 on Fri­day night.

“He has the abil­ity to shoot the ball. He has the abil­ity to re­bound the ball,” North Carolina coach Roy Wil­liams said of the sopho­more for­ward and for­mer walkon. “But the rea­son Luke is go­ing to be suc­cess­ful is what he’s got in his brain and in his heart.”

North Carolina, reach­ing the Elite Eight for the 27th time, are a win away from the Fi­nal Four.

Maye’s early jolt off the bench helped North Carolina (30-7) build a first-half lead that reached 20 points as the Tar Heels ben­e­fited from ac­cu­racy, con­nect­ing on 54.4 per­cent of their shots while But­ler was at 43.5 per­cent.

“We knew we were go­ing to have to make some perime­ter shots to give our­selves a chance,” But­ler coach Chris Holt­mann said. “They were go­ing to give us some clean looks, and we were go­ing to have to make them. We just didn’t.”

An­drew Chrabascz led the fourth-seeded Bull­dogs (25-9) with 21 points and seven re­bounds, while Ke­lan Martin fin­ished with 16 points for But­ler, which strug­gled shoot­ing early and did not re­cover.

“We let them get into a rhythm, es­pe­cially in the be­gin­ning,” Chrabascz said. “When you let a team like that feel good about them­selves, it’s tough to get them out of that with how many tal­ented guys they have on their team. And also they an­swered ev­ery run that we had.”

The Tar Heels broke out of the gate early, build­ing a dou­ble-digit lead and re­ally weren’t threat­ened af­ter half­time, al­though But­ler did get within 10 at one point. North Carolina, which let Arkansas claw back be­fore de­feat­ing the Ra­zor­backs 72-65 last week­end, weren’t go­ing to let that hap­pen again.

“We got by with very lit­tle room against Arkansas,” Jack­son said. “We knew it was a game of runs. But­ler is a good team, and they keep on com­ing at you. For us, we tried to stay fo­cused and stay poised.”

North Carolina used early ac­cu­rate shoot­ing to build a 16point lead as the Tar Heels con­nected on 13 of their first 18 shots, in­clud­ing miss­ing only one of seven from out­side the arc.

While But­ler man­aged to whit­tle the deficit to sin­gle dig­its on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions be­fore half­time, North Carolina would sim­ply an­swer with an­other rally, help­ing the Tar Heels carry a 5236 lead into the break.

The Tar Heels lead would stretch the lead back to 20 near the 12-minute mark of the sec­ond half, but But­ler didn’t ex­actly al­low North Carolina to coast home.

A 13-4 Bull­dog run made a dent in the ad­van­tage as Martin had seven in the stretch with Avery Wood­son con­nect­ing on a 3pointer. Martin closed out the run with an­other 3-pointer to pull But­ler within 71-60.

But while the Bull­dogs would cut the Carolina ad­van­tage to 10 points 2 min­utes later, they would get no closer the rest of the way.

But­ler’s Ke­lan Martin drives as North Carolina’s Luke Maye, left, and Nate Britt de­fend Fri­day night. The Tar Heels won 92-80. Andy Lyons, Getty Im­ages

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