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Michigan State v North Carolina

Source: Grant Halverson / Getty

Once you get into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, you know you’re going to get tested, and that’s exactly what happened to Carolina tonight, even if they won 85-69. Tom Izz’s bunch came more and threw the first punch, building an early 17-7 lead, as they would lead by as many as 12 in the first half. In his TV interview on CBS, Hubert Davis made it known that he couldn’t talk basketball to his team until they started competing and matching the Spartans’ physicality. Like they have all season long, the Tar Heels answered the call, going on a 17-0 run, that would extend to a 23-3 run to end the half, to turn the double-digit deficit, into a 40-31 halftime lead. That lead wouldn’t completely disappear, but Sparty came out of the half on fire, making it a 48-46 game at the under-16 timeout of the second half, but that was as close as it would get, once Carolina reestablished control, they would close the game out, the way you have to this time of the year.

It was imperative that Carolina got some help for R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot on the offensive end, and they got that tonight, with Harrison Ingram, who knocked in 5 three-pointers, on his way to scoring 17 points. Cormac Ryan added a quiet 14 points, and while it doesn’t seem like much, Elliot Cadeau added 6, to rebuild his confidence on that end of the floor. It was the 16th time, that UNC had four players score in double figures, and they are 15-1 in those games. Furthermore, the 85 points, are the second most that Michigan State has allowed this season (88 to Northwestern back in January). In their two games in Charlotte this week, Carolina averaged 87.5 points, well above their regular season average.

Who knows if Carolina would’ve won this game two months ago, but unlike in the home loss to Clemson, where they got down 15-2 out of the gate. Today they got down double digits, were challenged by their head coach, and they responded, to keep their season alive, and earn themselves a spot in the Sweet 16 next weekend.