CHARLOTTE — The Spectrum Center in Charlotte was the upset center of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend as No. 1 seed Virginia fell in the first round, and No. 7 Texas A&M closed out the historic weekend in the Queen City with an 86-65 upset over No. 2 UNC on Sunday.
Much like the Cavaliers suffered on Friday night, a second half of hot shooting from the underdog Aggies buried UNC’s chance at trying to string together a third straight deep run in the tournament. The final margin was the worst loss in any tournament loss for UNC in the Roy Williams era.
“We had a difficult time,” Williams said. “We had a six-minute stretch there we weren’t very good, and then we were playing from behind.”
The size of Texas A&M’s (22-12) frontcourt was a bother from the get-go for the Tar Heels (21-11), with Tyler Davis leading the charge in the post with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. The Aggies out-rebounded North Carolina by 14 and limited it to nine offensive rebounds.
Also aiding in the post was Robert Williams, who pulled down 13 rebound, and his windmill dunk on a transition with less than six minutes left was the exclamation point on a game that looked out of the Tar Heels’ hands after a 19-2 Texas A&M run in the first half.
“It was a more difficult game for us inside, which we knew,” Williams said. “What they did to us inside early in the game shocked us, even though we knew they were good, it shocked us because we weren’t making outside shots and now all of a sudden I feel like I had kids looking at the scoreboard tonight more than I ever had kids in my life.”
With the length in the Aggies’ frontcourt in a pair of 6-foot-10 players and another at 6-foot-9, UNC started to settle for outside shots that rimmed out more times than not, mostly on open looks from outside. UNC missed 13 straight at one point from the first half to the 15:30-mark of the second half.
As a whole, the Tar Heels shot 6-for-31 from distance, with each attempt hoping to change the momentum of the game, but none were successful.
“I had good looks, they just didn’t go down,” said Kenny Williams, who hit one 3-pointer against the Aggies after going 4-for-5 in the first round. “A couple of misses aren’t going to stop me from shooting, but the misses started to pile up for us.”
Along with the season ending for the Tar Heels, it was the end of the road for Pinson and Berry. The seniors made back-to-back trips to the Final Four and a national championship during their four years. The realization was immediate for Pinson after checking out of the game and embracing his coaches for the final time after posting four points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
“That was hard. It was hard. That’s when it hit me,” Pinson said. “Being around these guys for another weekend would’ve been great. I would’ve loved to have had another practice just to have fun, but I can’t do that anymore.”
In his final game, Berry had a game-high 21 points on 2-of-10 shooting from deep.
The first-half run from the Aggies was a part of a 6:10 scoring drought from North Carolina that went from up 20-13, to down 10 with less than five minutes until halftime. T.J. Sparks hit a pair of 3s in the first half as a part of his eight first-half points.
Entering the game 32 percent for the season from behind the arc, Texas A&M had the exact opposite luck as the Tar Heels from deep, shooting 42 percent with Sparks, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder knocking down multiple 3-pointers in the win. Hogg and Gilder had 14 and 12 points, respectively.
With Hogg and Gilder heating up out of halftime, Texas A&M’s lead grew to 24 on a Gilder 3-pointer with more than 13 minutes to go.
UNC’s Luke Maye had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Texas A&M moves on to take on No. 3 Michigan that hit a buzzer-beating 3 to down No. 6 Houston in its second round game.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.