PHILADELPHIA — North Carolina crushed all hope of a March Madness miracle in the early going Sunday, getting 20 points and 22 rebounds from Armando Bacot in a wire-to-wire 69-49 runaway over 15th-seeded Saint Peter's.
The eighth-seeded Tar Heels (28-9) made their record 21st Final Four, and next on their list is none other than archrival Duke and its soon-to-be-retiring coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
Next Saturday in New Orleans will mark the first Final Four meeting — first NCAA Tournament meeting, in fact — between the Tobacco Road archrivals whose campuses are separated by 11 miles.
While Coach K’s winding road to retirement has been a beauty to watch this March, nothing has captured more imaginations than the run put on by underdog Saint Peter’s. The entire basketball budget for this scrappy group from Jersey City, New Jersey, is $1.6 million — or around $400,000 less than what Tar Heels first-year coach Hubert Davis, who was sobbing as his players enveloped him after the buzzer, makes in a year.
Two nights earlier, the Peacocks (21-12) beat Purdue to become the first 15 seed to advance to an Elite Eight. They are hardly the first team to see grand plans undone by one of the country’s top-line power programs.
It got ugly early.
After Carolina's Leaky Black missed a free throw 2 1/2 minutes in, Bacot edged in for the offensive rebound and an easy putback. It gave Carolina a 7-0 lead. In its three tournament wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, Saint Peter’s had never trailed by more than six.
The Peacocks, whose 10-game win streak ended, moved the ball well and got plenty of good looks over the first 10 minutes. Some shots went halfway down and rimmed out. Others bounced twice on the iron but wouldn’t fall. They trailed 21-7 after missing their first six shots, and 16 of their first 19.
Late in the first half, Daryl Banks III swooped in for what looked like a windmill jam. It got rejected — by the front of the rim. It made the Peacocks 5 for 27 on the night, and when Bacot dunked on the next possession, North Carolina led 36-15.
KC Ndefo led Saint Peter's with 10 points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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