NCAA Tournament: Tar Heels routed by Texas A&M

UNC coach has Tiger fever doesn't care who knows

The North Carolina Tar Heels open their NCAA tournament on Friday but you wouldn't know it from a quick conversation with their head

The Tar Heels had 0 blocks (Texas A&M had eight) and trailed by 24 at one point.

North Carolina, the reigning national champions, put away No. 15 seed Lipscomb easily in its first round matchup.

So just how bad was UNC's loss?

North Carolina won the national championship last season, but this year wasn't quite as smooth after suffering an 86-65 second-round loss to Texas A&M at Spectrum Center.

"I thought he was holding it too long and waiting to see how they were going if play him", said Kennedy, "He went and the got it on the glass". And they pounced when UNC's small-ball lineup couldn't make an outside shot. Meanwhile, the Aggies - who peaked at No. 5 in the AP Top 25 in December - is moving on to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. T.J. Starks scored 21 points for the Aggies, who will face No. 3 seed MI in Los Angeles. "We didn't have the fastest start, but we were together the whole time". That continued in the second half and it doomed the Tar Heels.

North Carolina figured to make a run, but the A&M defense would not allow it. North Carolina answered with a pair of free throws by Berry, but Williams banked in a short jumper and Hogg turned a steal into a dunk with 4:45 left in the half. "I feel it all the time, last game of the year, but I think I felt it more today than any other time".

Said Williams: "I'm not ashamed to say that I love these kids". He only scored six points in the Round 1 game against New Mexico State, but he grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Tigers win. Hogg contributed 14 points, Gilder had 12. It was only the second time UNC has lost a NCAA Tournament game in the state of North Carolina in 34 previous tries. Texas A&M shot 52 percent from the field, drained 10 3s, had four players score in double figures, and held Carolina to just 33 percent shooting for the game.

But this time, it took an upset.

Williams grinned as he jogged back down the court, while the frustration among the Tar Heels reached its crescendo.

A national champion has not advanced past the Sweet 16 in 11 consecutive tournaments, while Duke (1991-92) and Florida (2006-07) remain the only repeat champions since UCLA's run of seven straight ended in 1973.

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"We started settling for outside shots, and they weren't going in", guard Joel Berry II said.

They weren't able to do that because of Tyler Davis.

"It's one of the worst performances we've had from the three", Maye said.

Starks contributed 15 points and eight assists against Providence, setting a NCAA Tournament assists record for Texas A&M.

"We took them out of rhythm, took them out of transition and fortunately when they did get some open looks at the free-throw line against our zone, they missed shots they usually make", A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. They earned it in impressive and unexpectedly dominant fashion.

"They blocked 70,000 shots", Williams said. "That's why coaches told us, 'You've got to keep pounding on the inside, keep playing to your strengths and keep doing what we do because they didn't want to handle us today".

UNC: Everything was set up for the Tar Heels to continue their final-month ascent.

While the versatile Aggie bigs locked down the paint on both sides of the ball, it was the three-point shooting that put them over the top.

A&M (22-12) features three players 6-foot-9 or better, each taller than UNC's biggest starter.

The Tar Heels end the season at 26-11 being upset in the West Region. "When you lose Duane Wilson who's an older senior for us and one of the true experienced guys that we had that's been in the NCAA Tournament, that's played in the Big East, that was a big loss".

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