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UNC beats Izzo, Michigan St. in March Madness again to reach Sweet 16

Harrison Ingram and RJ Davis Harrison Ingram and RJ Davis (4) - The Canadian Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — RJ Davis scored 20 points to help North Carolina beat Michigan State 85-69 in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, pushing the Tar Heels to the Sweet 16 while keeping them unbeaten in March Madness against Spartans Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo.

Harrison Ingram made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points for the West Region’s top seed, which continued its NCAA success in its home state. UNC (29-7) ran off 17 straight points during a 23-3 run over the last eight minutes of the first half to erase a 12-point deficit, then continued answering every push by the Spartans after halftime.

The Tar Heels improved to 5-0 in the tournament against Izzo, including victories in the 2005 Final Four and 2009 title game. And they move on to the regional semifinals in Los Angeles, where they will face either Grand Canyon or Alabama on Thursday night.

UNC also got a strong showing inside from Armando Bacot (18 points), who got into the paint to score, draw fouls or kick out against oncoming double teams. Ingram was on the receiving end of some of those, knocking down 5 of 7 3-pointers to go with seven rebounds.

Tyson Walker scored 24 points for the ninth-seeded Spartans (20-15), who were playing what amounted to a road game in front of a blue-clad crowd about a 2 1/2-hour drive from UNC's Chapel Hill campus.

One of Ingram’s 3s seemed destined to miss when it caught iron, only to somehow take a soft lap all the way around the rim and drop through the net — sending Ingram screaming toward the UNC bench and giving UNC a 69-57 lead with 6:18 left.

That lead grew to as many as 17 and never again fell below double digits.

The Spartans came out with toughness, taking the action to the Tar Heels behind a heater of a start with Walker scoring 11 points in the first 10 1/2 minutes. And when Malik Hall scored on a pivot spin against Jae’Lyn Withers inside, Michigan State led 28-17 at the 8:08 mark.

That’s when the Tar Heels finally rose to match the Spartans’ competitive edge.

Ingram hit a 3 to start the 17-0 burst that included multiple baskets and free throws from Bacot. Cormac Ryan nailed another 3 from the corner in a side-reversing sequence that started in the paint with Bacot, while Ingram hit one more that pushed the Tar Heels to a 40-31 lead at the break.


Michigan State: It was a bumpy season for a team that opened the season ranked No. 4 in the AP Top 25 but was unranked before the end of November and remained that way the rest of the year. The Spartans had wins against NCAA 3-seeds Illinois and Baylor, but they didn’t have better than a three-game winning streak after the start of 2024 and had lost five of seven entering March Madness. They turned in a strong effort to roll past eighth-seeded Mississippi State on Thursday, but — in a repeat of their season-long inconsistency — couldn’t repeat it for 40 minutes.

UNC: The Tar Heels advanced by beating 16th-seeded Wagner with an easy dominance in the paint against an undersized team. They had a tougher fight in this one but improved to 36-2 in NCAA games in North Carolina, including 14-1 in Charlotte, the state’s largest city.


The Tar Heels learn their opponent Sunday. UNC owns an 8-5 record against the fourth-seeded Crimson Tide and has never met the 12th-seeded Antelopes.


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