North Carolina recovers to bounce Michigan State, 85-69

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 24 Mar, 2024 at 04:26 AM

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE -- North Carolina got rolling, the Tar Heels' fans became loud, and it became quite a spectacle by the end of Saturday night's NCAA Tournament second-round game.

RJ Davis scored 20 points and No. 1 seed North Carolina shrugged off a slow start and a couple of shaky moments to defeat Michigan State 85-69 in the West Region.

Armando Bacot added 18 points and seven rebounds and Harrison Ingram had 17 points as the Tar Heels delighted a partisan crowd and were sent off to the West Coast with momentum after two games in their home state. Cormac Ryan's 14 points also came in handy for North Carolina, which committed only five turnovers.

"When it comes to times like this and we go down 12, just knowing that our coaches believe in us, but also are hard on us, it just makes a huge difference," Bacot said.

North Carolina (29-7), which benefited from a 17-0 first-half run, goes on to face Alabama or Grand Canyon in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

"So, we've been in tough physical matchups, highly competitive competitions like today," North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. "So, it just continues to build confidence for us moving forward, but not just particularly for this game, but for what we had to do the entire season."

Tyson Walker's 24 points paced ninth-seeded Michigan State (20-15), which began the season ranked No. 4 in the country. The Spartans also received 17 points from Malik Hall and 11 from Jaden Akins.

"We just did not make the plays at the right time, and they did," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Michigan State, which led by a dozen points in the first half, became the victim of a couple of key scoring runs by the Tar Heels.

"We started to compete," Hubert Davis said. "They punched first. Their physicality, their will, their want to, the first 10 minutes of the game just overwhelmed us."

North Carolina has now won all six NCAA Tournament meetings with Michigan State, most recently in the 2009 title game.

Michigan State closed within 57-53 with more than 10 minutes to play, and it was 62-57 before Jae'Lyn Withers' second basket in a 36-second span began North Carolina's 7-0 spurt.

"They made some tough shots," Hall said. "Then after that, we couldn't get anything to go on offense."

The Tar Heels made 10 shots from 3-point range -- half of those from Ingram -- and outscored Michigan State 19-11 on free throws.

"Today I was open, and they found me," Ingram said. "Luckily, I was able to open the shots. For us at UNC, we're all about the team, and we played together today."

Earlier, the Spartans were up 26-14 but couldn't maintain their defensive intensity, and part of that was connected to offensive glitches. Michigan State connected on only one field goal in the final eight minutes of the first half, which ended with the Tar Heels leading 40-31.

"We just kind of quit moving the ball offensively," Izzo said. "We just didn't bounce back from that."

Two blocked shots from North Carolina's Seth Trimble put the Spartans out of sorts and added to the Tar Heels' momentum.

That certainly had the crowd fired up as North Carolina was on the way to winning for the 14th time in 15 all-time NCAA Tournament games in Charlotte.

North Carolina ended up with a rare rebounding deficit (37-32), but it didn't matter as Michigan State had 11 turnovers. The Tar Heels had a string of 24 consecutive games of outrebounding their opponent snapped.

The teams were cleaning up on the defensive boards. The only first-half offensive rebound for either team came from Michigan State's Akins.

--Bob Sutton, Field Level Media