It wasn’t the style of game Roy Williams would have liked, but at least it was a win. The eighth seeded North Carolina Tar Heels slipped past the ninth-seed Villanova Wildcats, 78-71, in a second-round South Region matchup at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Tar Heels looked to have a handle on this one, leading 32-12 with 7:01 to play in the first half following a James Michael McAdoo bucket. But the Wildcats had other ideas, cutting it to 37-29 at the break by scoring 17 of the last 22 points of the half while holding UNC to just one field goal the rest of the way.
In the second half, Nova battled to tie it at 40 with 15:52 left, but after the teams went back and forth for a while, the Tar Heels would eventually get it to 67-59 with just 3:03 left.
The Wildcats, though, had one last gasp. A pair of free throws by Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston and a three by James Bell cut it to 67-66 with 2:14 to go. A big three by Marcus Paige made it 70-66 Heels with 2:04 left, and following a Mouphtaou Yarou, Paige hit a pair of free throws to extend it back to 72-68. That would be the start of a 6-0 run for UNC, as they would not let Nova get any closer than five the rest of the way.
P.J. Hairston led the Heels in scoring with 23 points (7-11 from the floor, 5-8 from three); McAdoo finished with 17 and Reggie Bullock scored 15 (3-6 from beyond the arc). Four Wildcats reached double digits, led by Pinkston (20, 8-15 FG) and Darrun Hilliard (18).
North Carolina will face either the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks or the 16th-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Sunday. A UNC-Kansas matchup will be a rematch of two Elite Eight teams from last year (an 80-67 Jayhawks win) and will pit Williams against the team he coached from 1988-2003.