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Heel Tough Blog: Michigan State Recap (NCAA Tournament Second Round)


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. Here’s what to takeaway from today’s win in the Second Round:

  1. Ingram Shines: During the first TV timeout of the game, Hubert Davis blamed the slow start on Harrison Ingram and Armando Bacot. Davis wasn’t wrong to say that, as both were getting pushed around defensively and on the boards. But after checking back into the game, Ingram hit another gear, and turned in one of his best offensive performances of the season. He hit 5 three-pointers, tying a season-high, with the 5 he hit against Duke in Chapel Hill, earlier this season. Whenever Ingram is scoring, this team reaches another level, and they need his offense, to take a deep run this tournament. 

  2. Defense Bounces Back: Michigan State ran out to a 17-7 lead, and would eventually lead by as many as 12, with Tyson Walker getting whatever he wanted on the offensive end of the court. Carolina’s defense has propelled them to the season they’ve had so far, and that’s what was going to get them back into the game. As they did against Florida State earlier this season, Carolina went on a game-changing run, this one 17-0, holding the Spartans without a field goal for over 7 minutes. That run would extend to 23-3 to end the half, as Carolina would build themselves a 9-point lead at the half. For the game, Michigan State ended up shooting 44% from the field, and 28% from deep. 

  3. Bench Contributes…Again: Carolina’s bench has helped this team get to this point of the season, and they helped keep their season alive today. Seth Trimble’s box score won’t jump out at you, as he scored 2 points, and grabbed 1 rebound. But he had two blocks in transition that helped preserve the lead for UNC in the second half when Michigan State was trying to make another run at the comeback. After Jae’Lyn Withers produced a double-double on Thursday, he only scored 4 points and grabbed 4 rebounds, but both of his buckets were backbreakers for Sparty’s comeback attempt. After a stretch in the middle of the season, where it was unknown what you were going to get from the reserves, they’ve gotten back to impacting the game in a positive way, and that’s one of the reasons, Carolina is still playing. 

  4. Cadeau Takes a Step Forward: After struggling on Thursday against Wagner, it was going to be interesting to see how Cadeau would respond today, and while it was uneven, he did take a step back in the right direction. He scored 6 points, going 2-6 from the field, but he was 0-4 from deep. His two free throws at the end of the game will serve as a building moment for him individually because this team will need him next weekend in Los Angeles. 

  5. Rebounding: For the first time in over three months, Carolina was outrebounded by their opponent, 37-31, but they made the most of the offensive rebounds, scoring 10 second-chance points in the second half. After losing the rebounding battle, Hubert Davis will have something to remind his team about when they begin the preparation for either Alabama or Grand Canyon next week, because it isn’t too often you lose the rebounding battle, and advance in the NCAA Tournament. 

  6. Continued Dominance in Charlotte/North Carolina: With the win today, Carolina is now 14-1 in Charlotte in the NCAA Tournament and 36-2 in the state of North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. 

Up Next: Carolina will play either Alabama or Grand Canyon next Thursday in the Sweet 16. Tip time will be set once Carolina learns their opponent.


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