RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida Gulf Coast trailed North Carolina by one, was surging with confidence and shooting 60 percent from the field at halftime of the 1 vs. 16 matchup on Thursday night. The Tar Heels fans from around the area who gobbled up tickets had an anxious tone with their cheers, seeing the Eagles come up with answer after answer against the ACC champions.
North Carolina’s players were stunned a bit, according to Florida Gulf Coast’s Marc-Eddy Norelia. No UNC team has allowed a 60 percent shooting half in the NCAA Tournament since playing Texas Tech in 1996. For those who may remember (or choose not to), that was the game most notable for Darvin Ham shattering a backboard.
“I could see that [they were surprised]. I don’t think they expected us to come and compete at the level we did,” Norelia said. “You could see that and then they responded in the second half.”
The response started with Brice Johnson. A combination of FGCU playing “hero ball” (their term, not mine) and North Carolina stepping up its interior defense allowed the Tar Heels to break the game open with a 25-6 run after halftime. Johnson finished the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks (six of them coming after halftime).
Brice Johnson did EVERYTHING on this play. https://t.co/wS8O7iHD5R #MarchMadness
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 18, 2016
The win was also Roy Williams’ 66th career NCAA Tournament win, moving him past North Carolina legend Dean Smith on the all-time list.
A nice win for @UNC_Basketball is a historic one for Roy Williams. pic.twitter.com/IdPyr2CLXu
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 18, 2016
North Carolina advances to play the winner of Providence-USC on Saturday.