NCAA Tournament: North Carolina 86, Washington 83
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó North Carolinaís Roy Williams woke up Sunday morning feeling ill.
The Hall of Fame coach then had to endure one stomach-turning play after another in a dramatic and confusing finish that left the Tar Heels in a familiar spot: the NCAA tournamentís round of 16.
Tyler Zeller scored 23 points, Harrison Barnes added 22 and North Carolina survived a closing minute that included numerous questionable calls to beat Washington 86-83 in the East region. The Tar Heels are into the second weekend for a record 24th time.
ěI told the kids to take care of the old man and they did a good job,î Williams said. ěI feel a heck of a lot better now.î
Rallying from deficits of 11 points in the first half and five in the second, the second-seeded Tar Heels (28-7) went ahead for good on Barnesí 3-pointer with 4:06 left.
But they needed two late free throws from Dexter Strickland and two defensive stops in the final second to advance to play the Syracuse-Marquette winner Friday in Newark, N.J.
ěFor our lack of experience,î Barnes said, ěwe make up for that with heart.î
Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 14 for the seventh-seeded Huskies (24-11), who couldnít overcome a subpar game from star Isaiah Thomas and a hostile crowd to pull the upset in a fast-paced game full of entertaining plays and mental miscues.
ěAll of our guys fought and did so many things right that could have enabled us to win the ballgame,î coach Lorenzo Romar said, ěbut we didnít get it done.î
Washington, which came in with as many NCAA tournament wins (18) as North Carolina has Final Four appearances, nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback in a virtual road game 2,800 miles from home.
Washington got within 84-83 on Rossí 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds left before North Carolinaís Kendall Marshall ó who set a school NCAA tournament record with 14 assists ó missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the foul line.
Washingtonís Venoy Overton then missed a runner in the lane, but the ball bounced off North Carolina and out of bounds with 7.4 seconds left. On the inbound play, 6-foot-10 John Henson knocked away Justin Holidayís pass under the basket and the ball landed in Stricklandís hands, and he hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds left.
Moments later, Overton launched a premature halfcourt shot with about 3 seconds remaining that fell well short.
Romar indicated that Overton was anticipating getting fouled, something Williams said the Tar Heels planned to do to prevent a tying 3-point attempt.
That wasnít the end of it, though. Not at all.
Instead of letting the errant shot go harmlessly out of bounds, Henson touched the ball on the way down to give the Huskies yet another chance.
ěI told John I wished he just caught that ball,î Williams said.
But how much time was left?
Replays with the official game clock superimposed on the screen showed there should have been 1.1 or 1.2 seconds to go, giving Washington more time for a final shot. Romar said after the game that his staff asked the referees to review how much time should have been left, but the officials stuck with half a second.
ěThereís always a lag time between the time the play occurs and the whistle is blown and the clock stops,î official Doug Shows told a pool reporter. ěBy rule, the clock stops when the whistle blows. We were asked to check the time and we verified that it was accurate with the standby official and the clock operator.î
Needing to hurry, the Huskies then inbounded the ball to Thomas, who unloaded a shot from the corner.
Henson inexplicably touched the ball just before it would have hit the rim and the Washington bench erupted for a goaltending call ó not that it would have mattered.
It turned out Thomas had his foot on the 3-point line.
ěI kind of felt like it was going to be short because I had to fade away and had to get if off quickly,î Thomas said. ěI might have had my left foot on the line.î
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating day for the star of the Pac-10 tournament.