Defending champion No. 2 North Carolina cruises past No. 15 Lipscomb

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Defending national champion North Carolina opened its title defense with an impressive 84-66 win over No. 15 seed Lipscomb on Friday afternoon in a West Region contest in Charlotte.

The Tar Heels (25-10) started to run away from the Bisons towards the end of the first half as they turned up the heat even more to start the second half. Five double-figure scorers led a balanced North Carolina attack as guad Kenny Williams led the way with 18 points.

Senior Theo Pinson added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while guard Joel Berry II (14 points), guard Cameron Johnson (12 points) and forward Luke Maye (10 points) also finished in double-figures for North Carolina.

Shooting 51 percent (31-for-60) from the field, the Tar Heels had an impressive 20 assists on 31 turnovers.

Lipscomb (23-10) was led by guard Kenny Cooper (14 points) and forward Rob Marberry (13 points) but the Bisons couldn’t get anyone else going on the offensive end. Leading scorer Garrison Matthews was held to only eight points on 3-for-14 shooting after averaging 22.6 points per game this season as North Carolina’s defense did a great job of tracking the Lipscomb star.

Shooting 25 percent (7-for-28) from three-point range, Lipscomb saw its eight-game winning streak get snapped after the Atlantic Sun winners couldn’t buy a bucket from deep.

No. 2 seed North Carolina advances to play No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the second round on Sunday. The Aggies knocked off No. 10 seed Providence earlier on Friday afternoon as big men Tyler Davis and Robert Williams both had double-doubles.

The Tar Heels will have superior guard play than the Aggies, but if Davis and Williams have another big game then this one could be close. North Carolina’s thin frontline will be challenged in a major way by Texas A&M as that could be the key matchup.