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North Carolina 73, Ohio 65

Barnes helps UNC survive

Ohio unable to deny Tar Heels

By Nancy Armour
Associated Press / March 24, 2012
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ST. LOUIS - Awful all night, Harrison Barnes came through when North Carolina needed him most.

Barnes scored 5 of his 12 points in overtime and the top-seeded Tar Heels escaped a huge upset with a 73-65 victory over 13th-seeded Ohio Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.

Ohio, trying to become the first team seeded 13th or worse to make the regional finals since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985, had a chance to convert a 3-point play that would have given them the lead with 25 seconds left in regulation. Walter Offutt missed from the line, however, and Ohio went 0 for 6 from the field in the first overtime of this year’s tournament.

“One free throw away,’’ Offutt said. “As a leader on this team, I take responsibility that I’ve got to hit that free throw . . . It just feels terrible to kind of let my team down in that sort of way.’’

Tyler Zeller finished with 20 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for North Carolina, which sorely missed injured point guard Kendall Marshall. The Tar Heels had three players with double-doubles for the first time in an NCAA Tournament game: Reggie Bullock had 17 points and 10 boards, and John Henson had 14 and 10.

Offutt led the Bobcats (29-8) with 26 points, including 18 from 3-point range, and Nick Kellogg added 14. But D.J. Cooper, who had averaged 20 points in the first two tournament games, finished with just 10 on 3-of-20 shooting.

On Sunday afternoon, North Carolina (32-5), which has won 11 straight in the regional semifinals, plays Kansas in the Midwest Regional final.

The Tar Heels barely advanced without Marshall.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he didn’t think Marshall would be able to play Sunday, either.

“I don’t think so ‘cause he still hasn’t done anything, but North Carolina’s going to play on Sunday. We’re happy about that,’’ he said.

Barnes was dismal, going 3 for 16. But his teammates weren’t much better, turning the ball over a season-high 24 times and shooting just 40 percent.

“Probably the ugliest win I’ve ever been a part of,’’ Reggie Bullock said. “But we won the game and, hopefully, we’ll do better on Sunday.’’

After trailing by as much as 15 in the first half, Ohio got hot. Ohio, a 10 1/2-point underdog, was 8 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half.

Bullock hit a three to give North Carolina a 63-61 lead with 39 seconds left, but Offutt scored on an off-balance drive and drew a foul by Stilman White in the process. Offutt’s foul shot was way left, the only free throw the Bobcats missed all night, and Zeller grabbed the rebound.

The Tar Heels worked the shot clock down to the very last seconds, but Barnes lost the ball and Offutt came up with it. He flipped the ball to Cooper, who raced to midcourt and launched a prayer. It caromed off the rim, sending the game into overtime.

Bullock opened the extra period with a three and Barnes came right back with a jumper. After Kellogg made a pair of free throws to cut it to 68-65, Barnes made a pair of his own and Ohio could never get any closer.

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