CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sports Network) – Tyler Zeller scored 23 points and Harrison Barnes added 22, as North Carolina put on a late surge to earn an 86-83 victory over Washington in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tar Heels (28-7) used an 11-2 run to erase a five-point deficit and will head to the Sweet 16 for the 24th time in their illustrious history. Seeded second in the East Region, North Carolina will face Marquette next Friday in Newark, New Jersey.
“It was a great basketball game,” said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. “If you are a basketball guy, you had to enjoy that basketball game.”
Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matt Bryan-Amaning chipped in 14 for Washington (24-11), which was denied a second straight trip to the Sweet 16 in a somewhat controversial finish that may have included a timing error.
The Huskies led for most of the second half and opened a five-point edge at 74-69, but North Carolina came right back with 11 of the next 13 points. Barnes drilled a three-pointer with 4:07 to play, giving the Heels a 78-76 lead, and two free throws by Zeller made it a four-point game.
North Carolina extended the margin to six with two minutes remaining, but Washington got a layup from Bryan-Amaning and a three-pointer by Scott Suggs to make it an 84-83 game with 17 seconds left.
Kendall Marshall then missed the front end of a one-and-one for the Tar Heels, giving Washington a chance to win it. Venoy Overton’s drive was blocked and the ball went out of bounds to the Huskies, but the inbound pass was deflected by John Henson into the hands of Dexter Strickland, who converted both ends of the one-and-one to give North Carolina a three-point edge with 5.4 seconds to play.
Overton took the inbound pass and raced up the floor, but fired up a shot from half-court with two seconds left that came nowhere near the basket. Henson, standing under the hoop, failed to corral the errant shot and the ball went out of bounds with 5/10ths of a second remaining.
Despite replays showing the ball hitting the floor with just over a second to play, the officials didn’t change the time. Washington’s inbound pass went to Isaiah Thomas in the left corner and his shot — which would have been a two-point effort because he straddled the three-point line — came up short as time expired.
“I was told that [the officials] had already checked [the time],” Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said when asked he inquired about a potential timing mistake.
Henson, after guarding the inbound pass, nearly interfered with the shot as it reached the rim.
Marshall finished with 13 points and 14 assists for the Tar Heels, while Strickland also scored 13. Henson contributed 10 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals in the victory.
Thomas had 12 points and eight assists for Washington, but made only 5-of-15 shots, and C.J. Wilcox scored 11 in defeat.
“Carolina is a very good basketball team,” Romar stated. “I was proud of our guys. I hate to see our seniors end it this way. I thought our guys fought, did so many things right, that could have enabled us to win the ballgame but we didn’t get it done. Give a lot of credit to the Tar Heels.”
A three-pointer by Leslie McDonald gave North Carolina a 15-14 lead in a back- and-forth first eight minutes, but the Tar Heels went cold and Washington scored 12 straight to take control. Ross ignited the burst with a pair of three-pointers and Darnell Gant added another shot from beyond the arc before Overton converted a three-point play to give the Huskies a 26-15 advantage with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening half.
The Tar Heels responded and went back in front, 34-33, on a turnaround jumper from Marshall with 4 1/2 minutes to play in the half. The Huskies quickly scored the next eight and stayed ahead for the rest of the half, taking a 45-44 edge into the locker room.
Washington opened the second half with the first two baskets, but the five- point margin was its biggest of the closing 20 minutes. The Tar Heels took a 56-54 lead, only to watch the Huskies score six straight. UNC battled back and grabbed a 65-64 edge on a three-pointer by Marshall with 9 1/2 minutes remaining, only to see Wilcox drain a three-pointer at the other end.
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