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Men's NCAA Tournament Roundup

Tar Heels feeling swell after tipping Huskies

North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller tries the strong-arm approach as he attempts to steal the ball from Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller tries the strong-arm approach as he attempts to steal the ball from Washington’s Aziz N’Diaye. (Bob Leverone/Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 21, 2011

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North Carolina’s Roy Williams woke up yesterday 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 Tournament’s Sweet 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 Regional at Charlotte, N.C. The Tar Heels are into the second weekend for a record 24th time.

“I told the kids to take care of the old man and they did a good job,’’ Williams said. “I feel a heck of a lot better now.’’

Rallying from deficits of 11 points in the first half and 5 in the second, the second-seeded Tar Heels (28-7) went ahead for good on Barnes’s 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 Marquette Friday in Newark.

Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 14 for the seventh-seeded Huskies (24-11).

“All of our guys fought and did so many things right that could have enabled us to win the ballgame,’’ coach Lorenzo Romar said, “but we didn’t get it done.’’

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 Ross’s 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds left before Carolina’s Kendall Marshall — who set a school NCAA Tournament record with 14 assists — missed the front end of a 1 and 1 at the foul line.

Washington’s 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-inch John Henson knocked away Justin Holiday’s pass under the basket and the ball landed in Strickland’s 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 wasn’t 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.

“I told John I wished he just caught that ball,’’ 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.

Needing to hurry, the Huskies then inbounded the ball to Isaiah 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 — not that it would have mattered.

It turned out Thomas had his foot on the 3-point line.

Ohio State 98, George Mason 66 — David Lighty made all seven of his 3-pointers and scored 25 points, Jared Sullinger added 18 after informing one of George Mason’s players “it’s over’’ and the top-seeded Buckeyes routed the Patriots in Cleveland.

With thousands of fans chanting “O-H-I-O’’ at every opportunity, the Buckeyes (34-2) took apart the Patriots (27-7), who created some March mayhem a few years ago and hoped to follow Butler’s lead by taking out a No. 1 seed in this tourney.

Ohio State wrecked any upset plans and moved closer to its first national title since 1960.

Marquette 66, Syracuse 62 — In the nightcap in Cleveland, Darius Johnson-Odom’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left snapped a tie and gave the Golden Eagles the win over the Orange and a berth in the Sweet 16.

The 11th-seeded Golden Eagles (22-14) had the winning basket set up by one of Syracuse’s 18 turnovers. Dion Waiters’s pass went long and Scoop Jardine’s jump to grab it resulted in an over-and-back.

Virginia Commonwealth 94, Purdue 76 — Bradford Burgess scored 23 points and the 11th-seeded Rams (26-11) made it three victories in five days, routing the third-seeded Boilermakers in Chicago to earn a trip to the Southwest Regional semifinals.

VCU’s remarkable run sends the Rams to the round of 16 for the first time in school history. With their fans chanting “VCU, VCU’’ as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the question is no longer whether the Rams belong. Instead, it’s: Who can stop them?

They’ve ousted Southern Cal, Georgetown, and Purdue since Wednesday night.

Florida St. 71, Notre Dame 57 — The second game in Chicago was also a runaway as Bernard James scored 14 points, Michael Snaer added 13, and the Seminoles showed there’s more to their game than defense with an upset of the second-seeded Fighting Irish.

It was an impressive effort by the 10th-seeded Seminoles, who had four players score in double figures and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993, where they will face VCU.

For Notre Dame (27-7), meanwhile, it was another disappointing showing in the NCAA Tournament. Ben Hansbrough scored 18 on 5-of-13 shooting before fouling out with 3:19 left.

Arizona 70, Texas 69 — Derrick Williams’s 3-point play with 9.6 seconds remaining lifted the Wildcats past the Longhorns in a West matchup at Tulsa, Okla.

The Wildcats (29-7) led by as many as 13 points in the first half and were up for most of the game before J’Covan Brown’s jumper put the Longhorns ahead, 69-67. Williams misfired on a game-tying attempt with 14.5 seconds remaining, but Texas (28-8) was called for a five-second violation on the inbound pass to give Arizona one more chance.

Replays appeared to show the call came before the count reached five.

Williams took advantage, slipping to the baseline on a pick-and-roll and taking the pass from Kyle Fogg. His shot fell through to tie the game, and his free throw put the Wildcats into the regional semifinals for the first time since last year’s absence snapped a 25-year tournament streak.

Brown had one final chance for the Longhorns, driving the length of the court and into the lane. But he was met by a trio of Arizona defenders, including Williams, and his wild shot went high off the backboard and missed. Time expired during the battle for the rebound.

Kansas 73, Illinois 59 — Also in Tulsa, twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds, powering the top-seeded Jayhawks past the Illini.

The Morris twins scored 24 of Kansas’s first 29 points in the second half, punctuated by consecutive two-handed slams by Markieff that made it 62-51 with 3:51 to play. The Jayhawks (34-2) avoided revisiting their loss to another No. 9 seed, Northern Iowa, last year. Mike Davis led the Illini (20-14) with 17 points and seven rebounds.