Just two days after blowing out fellow No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson at the First Four in Dayton, No. 16 FGCU faced the unenviable task of trying to become the first-ever 16-seed to beat a one seed. And for 20 minutes against No. 1 North Carolina the Eagles held their own, trailing by just one point at the intermission. But the final 20 minutes were an entirely different story, as Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels took control and won by the final score of 83-67.
Johnson was dominant on the defensive end of the floor, establishing a school NCAA tournament record with eight blocked shots while changing many other looks in the paint. The senior forward also led five Tar Heels in double figures with 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, and his increased activity served as a spark for a team that didn’t show up expecting a fight from FGCU.
UNC was much better on both ends of the floor in the second half, executing with greater efficiency on the offensive end and playing with greater passion defensively. Joel Berry II added 14 points and six rebounds, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson 12 apiece and Marcus Paige ten points.
After scoring 22 points in the paint in the first half FGCU tallied just ten in the second, with the North Carolina guards doing a better job of keeping the Eagles out of the paint and a “human eraser” in Johnson on the back line to clean up any mistake. Next up for the Tar Heels will be either No. 8 USC or No. 9 Providence, and they’ll need to bring the effort shown in the second half tonight for a full 40 minutes.
FGCU competed as best they could and for 20 minutes added some intrigue to the proceedings. But the combination of North Carolina’s skill and weary legs combined to end any talk of history being made in Raleigh.