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Bacot, Withers help No. 1 North Carolina cruise past No. 16 Wagner

Armando Bacot North Carolina Armando Bacot - The Canadian Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- — Armando Bacot had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 1 seed North Carolina never trailed in beating 16th-seeded Wagner 90-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Jae'Lyn Withers had a season-high 16 points and matched his best rebounding work with 10 boards for the West Region's headliner. That helped the Tar Heels (28-7) finish the game shooting 55% while dominating up front against a short-handed upstart aiming to pull off only the third opening-round takedown of a 1-seed in March Madness history.

RJ Davis, named this week as a first-team All-American by The Associated Press, had 17 of his 22 points after halftime for the Tar Heels.

UNC also played with the backing of a blue-clad crowd about 2 1/2 hours from its Chapel Hill campus. And the Tar Heels will have that again for the next step: a marquee matchup with Michigan State and Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo on Saturday.

The Tar Heels dominated this one inside, finishing with 48 points in the paint and a 43-24 rebounding advantage to go with 17 second-chance points.

Melvin Council Jr. and Julian Brown each scored 18 points for the Seahawks (17-16), who won their first-ever NCAA game by holding off Howard in the First Four on Tuesday night. Wagner shot 39.7% for the game.

UNC had the clear edge inside against a team with only seven available scholarship players and only one — 6-foot-9, 255-pound Keyontae Lewis — offering any notable size. By halftime, the 6-10 Bacot had a double-double after getting multiple deep-block touches while the 6-9 Withers showed plenty of energy in the paint by tallying his first double-digit scoring output since Jan. 17.

The Tar Heels gradually stretched that lead out after the break. That included Davis and Harrison Ingram hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, followed shortly by an alley-oop dunk in transition from Elliot Cadeau to a high-flying Withers for a 70-50 lead with 8:33 left.


Wagner: The Seahawks' story was an impressive show of resilience for a team that was picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference when they had a full roster. But coach Donald Copeland found himself losing players to injuries ever since, so much so that the team hadn't had a full-go practice since Dec. 27 and had used assistant coaches to help run drills. They won the NEC Tournament title to secure the program's second-ever trip to March Madness, the other coming 21 years ago.

UNC: The Tar Heels got another comfortable setting to start the tournament. The Tar Heels improved to 35-2 in NCAA games in their home state, including 13-1 here in the state's largest city. Notably, the lone loss came in their last tournament game here: a second-round loss as a 2-seed to Texas A&M.


The Tar Heels will get another matchup with the Izzo's Spartans, who have lost all four meetings with UNC in the NCAA Tournament — including in the 2005 Final Four and 2009 title game.


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