North Carolina Tar Heels 81, Marquette Golden Eagles 63
Well, I did expect a North Carolina victory. I sure didn't expect it like this.
As expected, the Tar Heels didn't shoot well from three point land (5 for 16). They missed seven free throws. But all of that was irrelevant, because UNC went up early, dictated the pace, and forced Marquette to play catch up.
And for ten minutes, the Eagles couldn't put the bunny in the bird's nest. The end.
Tied at 10-10, Marquette's offense and defense totally fell apart, and North Carolina went on a 30-5 run that essentially ended the game. In the second half the margin widened to 31 points, and the outcome was never in doubt from that point on.
Generally one of the best shooting offenses in the country, Marquette could not make a bucket against North Carolina's athletic defenders. They scored 88.7 points per 100 possessions, an awful number against any foe. They were 23 for 63 from the field and an even more atrocious 2 for 16 from downtown, and those numbers looked much worse before their mini-flurry near the end (6 for 30 to start the game!). Darius Johnson-Odom shot 2 for 9 from the field, committed four turnovers, and did not play much near the end of the game. Davante Gardner did come on late and provide Marquette an offensive boost with 16 points, and Jimmy Butler had 14 points.
North Carolina, by contrast, played their game and ended up with a typical Tar Heel victory. Harrison Barnes had 16 points (although he needed 16 shots to get them) and 9 boards, John Henson chipped in 14 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, and Tyler Zeller led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Zeller and Barnes grabbed 7 offensive rebounds apiece as they chipped away at Marquette's ineffective zone.
But the story was the Tar Heel defense, which showed that when it's at its best, North Carolina can beat anyone, and quite convincingly too.
UNC moves onto face Kentucky (who beat Ohio State in a thriller) in the Elite 8 Regional Final. Should be a dandy.
For more reaction from Tar Heel fans, head over to Carolina March.