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NCAA Men’s Tournament Second Round

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hubert Davis was furious. And he had every right to be.

His top-seeded North Carolina team — at least for the first 12 minutes or so Saturday, in its second-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 9 seed Michigan State — couldn’t have looked much worse . Flat. Lethargic. “They struck first,” Davis said. “Their physique, their will, their desire… simply overwhelmed us.” UNC was led by 12 players early on, with its season on the brink. The last time the Tar Heels came back from a double-digit deficit in the NCAA tournament and won? More than ten years ago.

Naturally, things looked bleak.

Then a whistle sounded. The alarm rings. A media timeout, gloriously offered by the basketball gods. As Davis’ players raced back to their Spectrum Center bench — trailing 28-20 with 7:43 left before halftime — Davis simmered silently, pacing back and forth in his Carolina blue blazer. Five players were seated, the others crowded around them, waiting for Davis’s instructions. Instead, they were treated to an explosion, with a head coach unleashing 12 minutes of pent-up frustration:

“Look,” Davis said, or rather demanded, “we can’t talk about basketball until we join the fight.”

Davis doesn’t use profanity, but he didn’t need to. “We could hear it,” sophomore guard Seth Trimble said. Davis didn’t insult his players, but he clearly challenged them, especially his bigs, Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram, who he said couldn’t stop Michigan State’s forwards. “Obviously it hurts, my head coach saying I can’t protect anyone,” Ingram said, “but that’s why I came here: to hear that stuff. And then we had to throw it. But Davis didn’t discuss X’s and Os. I didn’t call any sets.

Because he didn’t need it.

As Ingram said, referring to the program’s most famous player: “We took it personally. »

What followed is part of March Madness tradition, the single-game swings you think of as turning points in a title race — and if that Tar Heel team, which ultimately won 85-69 to qualify for the Sweet 16, keep dancing? Then this timeout, Davis questioning the soul of his team, will be one of the main reasons. Over the next seven minutes and 43 seconds, North Carolina powered up, like Popeye after several cans of spinach, and scored 20 points…while only allowing three.

Halftime: North Carolina 40, Michigan State 31.

From less than eight to nine. Just like that.

“It kind of brought us out,” Trimble said, smiling. “We just had to become the team we knew we could be.”

Continue reading.

GO FURTHER

UNC found the fight and the set play to beat Michigan State and make Sweet 16



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