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NCAA Tournament: UNC 85 Providence 66

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UNC pulls away from Providence in the second half to secure a trip to the Sweet Sixteen with an 85-66 win.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was expected this game would be a tough test for the Tar Heels and the first half was very much that. Kris Dunn was as advertised with 10 first half points and a very tough cover for UNC. A pair of threes by Dunn cut into the UNC lead twice and the Heels led just 17-14 with 11:20 left. Dunn picked up his second foul just seconds later and after he subbed out the Tar Heels moved the lead out to seven with 10:56 left.

The Tar Heels were unable to take advantage of Dunn's absence. The Friars went on an 8-0 run to take a 22-21 lead. A pair of Marcus Paige free throws regained the lead for the Tar Heels but a three pointer from Ben Bentil and three point player on an acrobatic shot by Kyron Carwright gave Providence a 28-25 lead approaching the five minute mark of the half. Paige responded with a three to tie the game and a vicious block from Brice Johnson fired up the crowd and the Tar Heels heading into the waning minutes of the half. UNC used a 9-2 run to take a 34-30 lead at the break.

Dunn's return in the second half paid immediate dividends for the Friars with a 6-0 spurt fueled by the Providence guard to take a 36-34 lead. Justin Jackson's three tied the game at 36 as part of a 7-0 UNC run to take a five point lead. The Friars using a Bentil three and Dunn dunk tied the the game at 41-41 just on the other side of the first media timeout.

Then UNC dropped the hammer. An extended period of lockdown defense and exploiting the Friars' inability to stop the Tar Heels on the interior slowly opened the game up for UNC. On the defensive end Justin Jackson's defense on Dunn slowed down the Friars' best offensive weapon. On the offense end, Johnson's three point play put UNC up 50-41 before a pair Providence buckets cut the lead to five. That was as close as the Friars would get. Paige cleaned up a missed shot crashing the boards from the perimeter then hit a three to make the lead ten. Johnson followed with six straight free throws and a basket to run the lead to double digits. The rout was on and UNC extended the lead to as much as 21 to send the Tar Heels to the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season to face #5 seeded Indiana.

Brice Johnson recorded his 21st double-double of the season with 21 points and 10 rebound plus two blocks. Joel Berry and Justin Jackson each had 15 points with Isaiah Hicks chipping in 13 and Marcus Paige going for 12 points. Berry also had five rebounds along with Pinson.

UNC wins its 30th game of the season for the first time since 2012.