The #1 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels went to the locker room up by only 1 point against 16th seed Florida Gulf Coast during their first game of the NCAA Tournament- and while Eagles’ fans were seeing visions of their own version of Mercer’s celebratory “Nae Nae”, they had no idea what UNC had cooking for them at the start of the 2nd half.
After being beaten on the glass and in the paint before halftime, North Carolina opened period two on a rampage that resulted in a 25 to 6 run that left the Eagles booking their trip back to the Sunshine State.
The players admitted they got a little tight during Florida Gulf Coast’s impressive first half, but senior Marcus Paige said the Tar Heels were never nervous about losing the game.
“We weren’t nervous at half, but we were playing a little tight the first half as a one seed. We were kind of tiptoeing into the game; they were the aggressor. They were taking us out instead of us taking them out. I think that was the biggest difference from the first half to the second half. We started playing our brand of basketball.”
UNC’s 2nd half brand of basketball meant stepping it up on the defensive end. After letting the Eagles shoot 60% from the field in the 1st half, North Carolina gave up a stingy 30% from the field in the second.
“They just stepped it up another level as far as their energy. That’s what I saw,” FGCU senior Julian DeBose said after the game. They rebounded a lot better, and they just stayed persistent.”
Roy Williams was also pleased with the team’s intensity after the break, but admitted despite the second half rout, his squad has room for improvement.
“The second half we got into it defensively a lot better, but still didn’t play nearly as well as we’d want to.”
The Heels will look to make those improvements Saturday evening at 9:40pm, when take on Providence for a spot in the Sweet 16.
- Brice Johnson’s 8 blocks were a career high and the most by a UNC player in the NCAA Tournament.
- Roy Williams passed Dean Smith in NCAA Tournament wins.
- UNC has won 28 consecutive NCAA Tournament games played in its home state and owns a 31-1 record overall.