North Carolina caps perfect night for ACC with win over Indiana
Marcus Paige scores 21 points and North Carolina continues its offensive prowess, moving to the Elite Eight for the 20th time since 1975 with a 101-86 victory over Indiana on Friday night in the East Regional.
PHILADELPHIA — North Carolina keeps on scoring and keeps on winning and the Tar Heels are one victory from their first Final Four in seven years.
Marcus Paige started the Tar Heels’ impressive shooting performance with four early 3-pointers and he finished with 21 points as North Carolina continued its offensive prowess, moving to the Elite Eight for the 20th time since 1975 with a 101-86 victory over Indiana on Friday night in the East Regional.
The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-6) will meet sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday, determining one of two guaranteed Atlantic Coast Conference spots in the Final Four. The Fighting Irish beat Wisconsin 61-56 on Friday.
It will be the same case in the Midwest Regional, where top-seeded Virginia will face 10th-seeded Syracuse, meaning at least half the Final Four will be from the ACC. Since the East and Midwest champions play in the Final Four, the conference will have a team play for the national title.
"Definitely doesn’t surprise me based on the quality of play in our league this year, it was fantastic," Paige said of the ACC’s postseason success. "Top to bottom we had some really competitive games."
The Tar Heels and Fighting Irish split their two games in the regular season. Notre Dame won at home 80-76 and the Tar Heels did the same 78-47.
Brice Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who are in the regional final for the seventh time in coach Roy Williams’ 12 years and for the first time since 2012.
Yogi Ferrell had 25 points to lead Indiana (27-8) while Troy Williams added 21.
Kennedy Meeks had 15 points for the Tar Heels while Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II both had 14.
"A lot of people have been saying, `Carolina’s not shooting the ball well outside,’" Berry said. "We have the shooters, it’s just we want to play inside out and not force so many 3s. Sometimes you can rely on 3s so much, you get away from learning how to score inside."
Paige finished with six 3s, tying the North Carolina NCAA Tournament record set by Shammond Williams in 1998. Both did it in nine attempts.
"When you get that first one to go down, it’s always a great thing for your confidence," Paige said. "And then I was able to get free a couple of times right after that and get pretty good looks at the rim."
North Carolina has scored at least 83 points in each of its three NCAA Tournament games and the Tar Heels kept up their incredible shooting from the second-round win over Providence.
With Paige leading the way, the Tar Heels had another half shooting better than 60 percent. They made 18 of 29 shots (62.1 percent), including 7 of 8 3-point attempts and they missed one of 10 free throws. They weren’t near 60 percent in the second half, finishing at 51.6 percent for the game (32 of 62).
The Tar Heels were scoring almost at will, especially inside, where the Hoosiers were no match for Meeks, Johnson and Jackson.
This was the 28th straight game North Carolina held its opponent to under 50 percent shooting. Only Maryland (50.8 percent) hit more than half its shots against the Tar Heels this season.
"It’s extremely exciting," Paige said of being one win from the Final Four. "It was one of the things we’ve talked about all year as one of the goals we set. So to be one game away is incredibly exciting. And to have beaten a great Indiana to get there, it feels really good."
North Carolina led by as many as 22 points and Indiana was able to get within 10 points three times in the second half.
"They were consistently making shots inside, outside, to start the game," Ferrell said. "Going up against a great team like North Carolina, you can’t come out to a slow start. Got to be clicking on all cylinders. We couldn’t stop them to start the game."
Paige couldn’t miss early, hitting four 3-pointers and a jumper before he finally missed. The only thing that slowed him down was fouls — he picked up his second midway through the first half and spent the rest of it on the bench.
"Marcus was making video game shots to start the game," Crean said. "I mean seriously. He’s a tremendous player. … But we never got him under control with what we wanted to do on the wings."
The Tar Heels led by as many as 16 points in the first half but Indiana scored the final five points of the half to get within 52-41.
The game was played before a sellout crowd of 20,686 at Wells Fargo Center.
This was the third time these schools met in the NCAA Tournament and Indiana won both previous games. The Hoosiers beat the Tar Heels for the national championship in 1981 and they beat them again in 1984 in what turned out to be the last college game for Michael Jordan.
Indiana: The Hoosiers became the seventh team to play in 100 NCAA Tournament games. They have a 66-34 record. … Indiana entered the game with four wins over Top 25 teams. … Indiana had never lost an NCAA Tournament game in Philadelphia, sweeping the Final Four in 1976 and 1981 for two of its five national championships. .. The Hoosiers are 5-4 all-time against No. 1 seeds.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels entered the game with five wins over Top 25 teams. … The Tar Heels are 4-1 in NCAA Tournament games in Philadelphia. … Former Tar Heels Rasheed Wallace and Wayne Ellington were sitting next to each other among the Carolina fans.
Indiana: season over.
North Carolina: faces sixth-seeded Notre Dame in East Regional final on Sunday.