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UNC loses to Auburn 80-97 in the Sweet Sixteen

My heart hurts and I’m not ready to talk about it.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional-Auburn vs North Carolina Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina’s season came to an end at the hands of Auburn in the Sweet Sixteen Friday night in Kansas City. It was an awful night for the Tar Heels, as the Tigers were unconscious from beyond the arc as we’ve seen them multiple times this year. The way they played was worst case scenario come true for UNC.

It was clear that a few UNC players were not feeling their best. Nassir Little was battling the flu this week and rumors circulated that Cameron Johnson was feeling under the weather as well. That’ll get a lot of play for sure, and it absolutely didn’t help the cause at all, but the loss was more than that. Carolina turned the ball over 14 times, directly leading to 19 points for Auburn. The Tigers hit 17 of their threes while UNC could only muster seven.

Johnson and Coby White led UNC with 15 points each. Unfortunately, White couldn’t get the three-ball to fall all night, going 0-7 from distance. Luke Maye and Kenny Williams both finished in double figures for the final games of their careers at UNC.

The Tigers were just too good from beyond the arc and too good in the paint. They played a hell of a game and UNC didn’t have an answer. They were better than the Heels in almost every category tonight and UNC just couldn’t find a way to get over the hump in the second half. Carolina managed to pull within six before Auburn poured on more points to put them away for good.

It’s a disappointing conclusion for a team that was playing as well as anyone in the country the last couple of months. That’s the nature of the tournament, but it’s hard to see the three seniors go out that way. It may also be the last time we see Little and White suit up for UNC as well. Endings are always painful if they don’t end in a national championship, but this one hurts a little extra.

The fact that it hurts this much, though, is a reminder of how much this team meant to us as a whole. They were an incredibly fun group of guys and great ambassadors for UNC. We’re lucky to have had them as long as we did.