NCAA Tournament

North Carolina Holds On to Upset No. 1 Baylor in Second Round of NCAA Tournament

The Tar Heels won in overtime after allowing the defending champs to erase a 25-point second-half lead

North Carolina Tar Heels
USA TODAY

The pressure was getting to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Not just the kind of pressure that comes with attempting to close out the top-seeded, defending national champions after leading by 25 points in the second half. But the swarming, turnover-inducing pressure defense that helped erase that lead.

The eighth-seeded Tar Heels entered overtime with two possible outcomes in the balance: complete a resilient upset victory over the top-seed to advance to the Sweet 16 or become the victims of what would match the largest collapse in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

In a storyline authored only during the madness of March, North Carolina overcame the pressure and prevailed with a 93-86 victory.

"This is a group of toughness and resiliency, and I'm so proud of them," first-year Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis told CBS after the win.

By eliminating Baylor, which last year captured the first national championship in program history, North Carolina advances to play the winner of No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Saint Mary's on Friday.

North Carolina got off to a fast start thanks to the hot hand of R.J. Davis, who finished with a career-high 30 points.

A three by Davis capped an 8-0 run that gave the Tar Heels a 24-10 lead with 11:32 remaining in the first half. Baylor cut the deficit in half after a jumper by Dale Bonner with 6:53 left in the half. But the Tar Heels responded, with Davis hitting his fourth three of the half to push the lead back to 14 at 40-26 in the closing minute.

Davis had 17 first-half points, making four of six attempts from three, to help send North Carolina into the break with a 42-29 lead. The Bears, who made just 2 of 10 3-point attempts in the first half, committed eight turnovers in the half that the Tar Heels converted into 15 points.

The Tar Heels, who entered 44-0 in the NCAA Tournament after holding a double-digit halftime lead, extended their lead early in the second half. Brady Manek helped push the lead to 24 after scoring eight points during a 13-0 run that gave North Carolina a 62-38 advantage.

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Manek scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half before being ejected with 10:08 remaining when he was called for a Flagrant 2 foul after elbowing Jeremy Sochan. The Tar Heels, at the time, had dominated throughout to build a 67-42 lead. After the ejection, and after losing a second starter shortly after when guard Caleb Love fouled out, they were outscored 38-13 over the remainder of regulation.

Baylor responded with an 11-0 run, highlighted by Adam Flagler hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to help trim the North Carolina lead to 67-53 with 8:26 to go.

Baylor pulled within single digits as the run stretched to 20-4, cutting the lead to 71-62 with 5:22 left. A North Carolina turnover on the inbounds - the Tar Heels' 11th turnover of the half - led to a 3 by Matthew Mayer that made it a two-possession game at 73-67.

While Davis was then fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws, Bonner answered with a 3 of his own. James Akinjo then converted a three-point play in transition to pull Baylor within three with 1:48 to go.

Armando Bacot responded with a three-point play of his own to push the North Carolina lead back to six.

Sochan then banked in a 3 for Baylor to make it a three-point game at 80-77 with 31 seconds remaining.

After Bacot missed a pair of free throws, Akinjo drove the lane and hit the runner plus the foul for a three-point play that evened the score at 80-80 with 15.8 seconds left.

Another 3-pointer by Davis at the end of regulation came up short, sending the game into overtime, with all the momentum in Baylor's favor.

North Carolina's Dontrez Styles opened overtime with a corner 3. Bacot, after being fouled on a putback attempt, then hit one of two free throws to push the lead to four. Mayner followed with a pair of free throws and Sochan then converted a layup to tie it at 84-84 with 3:02 left.

Bacot answered with two clutch free throws to put North Carolina back up by two. Fouled again after driving to the basket, Bacot missed both free throws. Akinjo hit one of two at the other end to pull Baylor within one. Bacot then found a cutting Leaky Black for the floater in the paint to make it 88-85 with 1:56 left. Davis then banked in a runner plus the foul and hit the free throw to give North Carolina a 91-85 lead with 1:18 to help seal the win and deny Baylor the comeback.

Baylor was looking to become the second team in NCAA Tournament history to come back from 25 points down, joining BYU, which did so against Iona during the First Four matchup in 2012. Instead, the Bears became the first No. 1 seed eliminated in the 2022 tournament.

It was the ninth win over a No. 1 seed for North Carolina, the most all time. Davis shot 8-for-17 from the field, and 5 of 10 from three, to eclipse his previous career high of 26 points. Bacot finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

North Carolina has gone 13-3 since suffering back-to-back blow out losses to Miami and Wake Forest in January, losses that seemingly served as a wake-up call to help spark the team's run to the Sweet 16.

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