2018-03-18 20:16:03
Texas A&M Swats Second-Seeded North Carolina From Tournament

20:16, March 18 108 0

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Despite the sea of Carolina blue in the stands, the No. 2-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels fell to seventh-seeded Texas A&M , 86-65, in the second round of the N.C.A.A. tournament on Sunday.

The Aggies will play third-seeded Michigan (30-7), the Big Ten champion, in the round of 16 on Thursday in Los Angeles.

The game’s tone was set midway through the first half, with the Tar Heels up, 20-17. North Carolina sophomore Brandon Robinson drove to the hoop, and Robert Williams, Texas A&M’s 6-foot-10 sophomore forward, shifted over, leapt at Robinson’s layup and slammed it back like a tennis player hitting a lob.

It not only denied the Tar Heels a basket; it was a message from the Aggies: We own down low.

And so they did for the rest of the game. From that block, they went on a 25-8 run to close the half, and then built on the lead from there.

When Carolina’s wing players went inside after that early block, one could almost feel their caution. In the second half, the mere threat of Williams lurking down low caused Joel Berry to turn a routine drive into a circus-layup that failed to drop.

Williams’s block was one of eight for the Aggies. With the inside closed off, the Tar Heels shifted to 3-pointers. T hey entered Sunday averaging 22.7 per game; on Sunday, they tried 31. They shot 36.7 percent from deep on the season; they shot 19.4 percent on Sunday.

North Carolina Coach Roy Williams always prides himself on his team’s rebounding, and that was part of the problem on Sunday. Texas A&M (22-12) outrebounded U.N.C., 50-36.

North Carolina came into the season as the defending champions and, after an up-and-down 26-11 season, made an impressive run in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, winning three games and defeating Duke before falling to Virginia in the title game. The highest No. 2 on the men’s basketball committee’s seed line, many had pegged the Tar Heels for a third consecutive trip to the Final Four.

The atmosphere here was so heavily in their favor. Except for one loud section set aside for Texas A&M fans, Charlotte’s Spectrum Center may as well have been Chapel Hill’s Dean Dome. Because of that and Carolina’s reputation, what was numerically a blowout felt a little more tenuous. When Berry hit a 3-pointer with just under 10 minutes left, the crowd came alive as though he had cut the Aggies’ lead to 5, not 19.

The Tar Heels were able to make up a little ground late with an aggressive, trapping defense and a dash of conservatism on offense by the Aggies. But the game had been effectively blown open by then.

At one point late, the Aggies’ lead comfortably in double-digits, the Tar Heels’ press forced a turnover and a fast break led by the senior Theo Pinson. Tonny Trocha-Morelos, a 6-10 senior, blocked Pinson’s layup, and the ball found its way to Williams, all alone on the other end of the floor, who put it home with a windmill dunk.