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Washington Comes Up Just Short Against North Carolina

Final Score: North Carolina 86 Washington 83

Washington shook off their cross-country trip, an early morning (body clock) start to the game, and a highly partisan North Carolina crowd, who were only a couple of hours up the road from Chapel Hill, and led most of the way Sunday in Charlotte.

But though the Huskies out-played the Tar Heels for probably 30 of the 40 minutes, they couldn't put enough distance between them and second seeded North Carolina, the regular season ACC Champions, to withstand the Tar Heel's overall balance, and a late push, that earned them the three point win, and the trip to the Newark, NJ, next week for the East Regional Sweet 16.

All five North Carolina starters finished in double figures, led by Tyler Zeller's game high 23.

Terrance Ross, after being held scoreless Friday night, had 8 consecutive points off the bench for Washington, and hit a pair of three pointers that sparked a 12-0 Husky run that opened an 11 point, 25-14 first half lead for Washington.

North Carolina answered with a 20-8 run to pull ahead 34-33, but Washington had the 45-44 halftime lead, with the most first half points the Tar Heels had allowed all season.

This despite an 11-2 disparity in fouls in favor of North Carolina. The Huskies lead was largely due to their hitting on 6 of 13 three pointers. Managing their outside shooting has been an issue for Washington in most of the games they have struggled in, but they were on their game, both in terms of judgment and execution, against the Tar Heels, balancing their outside shooting against 24 points in the paint.

Ross was the first player in double digits, and led Washington at the break, with 12 points. Ross would eventually lead the Huskies, with 19 points.

Harrison Barnes led everyone in the first half, with 14 points for North Carolina, with Zeller close behind with 12 more.

Aziz N'Diaye had started for the Huskies, and had 8 first half rebounds, but picked up three fouls by halftime, and did not start the second half. Matthew Bryan-Amaning picked up his third foul as well less than 2 minutes into the second half.

Ross came to the rescue with a couple of baskets to offset consecutive John Henson scores for the Tar Heels.

Isaiah Thomas capped a 6-0 Washington rum for a 60-56 Husky lead 8 minutes into the second half, but Henson and Zeller answered, and after N'Diaye got his fourth foul, Zeller pushed the Tar Heels ahead by 2 points.

C.J. Wilcox made a couple of shots to keep Washington in touch, and Venoy Overton forced Zeller into his third foul.

With both teams shooting over 50 % in the second half, it was tied 69-69 at the under 8 minute timeout.

Wilcox's third 3 pointer opened a 74-69 lead, but 4 consecutive points by Kendall Marshall got the Tar Heels back within one point.

Henson stopped both Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant in the paint, and Barnes' three pointer made it a 9-2 North Carolina run, for a 78-76 lead with four minutes left, and the Huskies never quite caught up again.

Zeller's free throws gave North Carolina their largest lead of the game to that point, 4 points. Marshall and Dexter Strickland pushed the lead to 6 points with less than 2 minutes left.

Bryan-Amaning got a Husky rally started, and Suggs' three pointer pulled Washington within one point, 84-83 with 17 seconds left.

Marshall couldn't convert at the free throw line, but Overton couldn't score on a drive either. However, the Huskies got the ball for the last shot, off Henson's hand, but Henson got that hand on the inbounds pass as well, and got the ball.

Strickland made both free throws, for an 86-83 lead, forcing Washington to need a three pointer, and Thomas couldn't repeat his Pac-10 Tournament winning shot.

Barnes was right behind Zeller, with 22 points, sparked by four three pointers. Marshall and Strickland both added 13 points, and Henson had a 10 point, 10 rebound double double for North Carolina.

Bryan-Amaning led Washington's starters, with 14 points. Thomas topped out at 12, when Washington really needed him to get to 15. Wilcox added 11. N'Diaye led everyone on the boards, with 11 rebounds, but scored only 4 points.

Thomas also had 8 assists, and Marshall actually had a double double, with 14 assists, crucial in setting North Carolina up to be able to be so competitive.

The Huskies finished with 10 of 20 three pointers made, about what Coach Lorenzo Romar would have wanted. The difference in the game was at the free throw line. Washington was a perfect 7 of 7, but there were only 9 fouls assessed to North Carolina. Meanwhile, 20 whistles on Washington meant 23 free throws for the Tar Heels, and they converted on 18 of them, 78%.

Washington (24-11) fell out of the tournament a round short of their Sweet 16 run last year, leaving only Arizona, in action this afternoon against Texas, still alive from the Pac-10.

Tar Heel coach Roy Williams, who has won all 21 of the first round games in his coaching career at Kansas and North Carolina, kept alive another impressive streak, where North Carolina has never not advanced to the Sweet 16 when they have played their opening round game(s) in state.

North Carolina (28-7) will face a Big East opponent next, either Syracuse or Marquette, who meet this afternoon. The Tar Heels will need another win to really keep that streak of good runs that started in state going, as they have always made it to at least the Elite 8.