Analysis: North Carolina’s title defense ends in stunning fashion

North Carolina’s players sat on the bench, looking solemn as Texas A&M added to its double-digit lead.

With 1:29 remaining, Tar Heel legends Joel Berry II, Luke Maye and Theo Pinson received a round of applause from what amounted to a hometown crowd as they walked to the sideline for the final time Sunday evening.

North Carolina’s national championship defense ended in stunning fashion in Charlotte, N.C.

Seventh-seeded Texas A&M took control midway through the first half, using its large post players to dominate in an 86-65 win over the No. 2-seed Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Berry struggled with his outside shooting, Maye got into early foul trouble and North Carolina (26-11) appeared shocked as it trailed by 24 points in the second half.

Despite suffering a 3-game losing streak during its ACC schedule, the Tar Heels managed to turn things around and entered the NCAA Tournament as a national championship contender. Their hopes of celebrating another title improved after top-seed Virginia was upset and several other national powers fell this weekend.

However, Texas A&M (22-12) never let up to earn a trip to the Sweet 16, where it will face No. 3 Michigan on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Berry led North Carolina with 21 points in his final collegiate game.

Momentum shift

North Carolina was creating some distance from Texas A&M.

Forward Sterling Manley hit a jumper as part of a 6-0 run that gave the Tar Heels a 20-13 lead with 11:37 remaining in the first half. But the Aggies responded with an even bigger run, one large enough to change the momentum for good.

Texas A&M forced turnovers, got second-change points and played shutdown defense to score the next 15 points. Davis used his size to dominate in the paint, helping the Aggies erase a 7-point deficit and build a 28-20 lead.

There wasn’t much the Tar Heels could do right as they went more than 7 minutes without making a basket. They couldn’t grab rebounds, make shots or do the small things that allowed them to get off to a fast start.

Berry hit a pair of free throws to finally snap Texas A&M’s 15-0 run. Maye then made a layup with 4:04 left in the first half to give UNC its first basket since Manley’s jumper, but a lot had changed during that stretch.

The Aggies were playing with more confidence and took a 42-28 lead into halftime.

Size in the paint

North Carolina is accustomed to outrebounding its opponents, and Maye has established himself as a tenacious post player.

However, with Maye battling foul trouble, Texas A&M center Tyler Davis had no trouble grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring around the rim and being a force in the paint.

The 6-foot-10, 266-pound junior scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. He gave the Aggies an immediate boost, firing them up as he hollered after making big plays in the paint.

North Carolina struggled to contain Davis, who made 7 of 9 shots and helped Texas A&M overpower the Tar Heels in the paint. The Aggies won the rebounding margin, 50-36, and they held Maye to 13 points and 11 rebounds on 6-for-16 shooting.

Poor shooting

North Carolina has relied on its outside shooting to provide another dimension to its offense.

However, Berry and fellow guards Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson were unable to drain 3-pointers like they usually do. With their outside shooting not falling, the Tar Heels watched as their offense stalled.

North Carolina missed 12 of its 13 3-point attempts in the first half (7.7 percent), with Williams making the lone shot from beyond the arc. Berry, Johnson and forward Theo Pinson combined to miss all 10 of their 3-point attempts.

The Tar Heels never found their shooting touch, finishing 6 of 31 3-point attempts (19.4 percent).

The post Analysis: North Carolina’s title defense ends in stunning fashion appeared first on Diehards.

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