Heels head to Big DanceCourtesy The ACC / April 1, 2016
PHILADELPHIA – Brice Johnson had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead North Carolina to an 88-74 victory over Notre Dame on Sunday, March 27, leaving the Tar Heels as the only No. 1 seed in the Final Four.
The Tar Heels reached the Final Four for a record 19th time and the first since 2009, when they won the last of their five national championships.
North Carolina (32-6) will face Syracuse, the 10th seed from the Midwest Regional, in another all-Atlantic Coast Conference matchup in the Final Four on Saturday in Houston. The Orange beat top-seeded Virginia, 68-62.
The halves were very different. In the first, the teams went shot for shot with both teams shooting over 58 percent and neither leading by more than six points.
The second half was run for run and the Tar Heels, taking control of the boards, had the last and biggest one to seize control over the final 10 minutes.
“They made a great run and we made a great run right back at them,’’ Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “These guys were phenomenal. It’s a fine feeling right now.’’
It was Johnson’s school-record 23rd double-double of the season.
“It means a lot,’’ Johnson said of the Final Four. “It took us four years to do this, but we’re finally there.’’
Marcus Paige added 13 points and Joel Berry II had 11 points and eight assists for North Carolina, which has won its four tournament games by an average of 15.4 points. The Tar Heels finished with a 32-15 rebound advantage, including 13-5 on the offensive end.
Demetrius Jackson had 26 points, and V.J. Beachem had 18 for sixth-seeded Notre Dame (24-12).
“I thought we put ourselves in position,’’ Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “You have to give credit to North Carolina. We took that one-point lead, and they answered it like men. They’re really playing well. I think they’re playing the best of anyone left. I thought the way they answered that run was championship-level,’’ he said.