Bacot, Withers help No. 1 seed North Carolina beat No. 16 seed Wagner in March Madness

Thu, Mar 21, 2024

Bacot, Withers help No. 1 seed North Carolina beat No. 16 seed Wagner in March Madness

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Armando Bacot had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 1 seed North Carolina never trailed in beating 16th-seeded Wagner 90-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Jae'Lyn Withers had a season-high 16 points and matched his best rebounding work with 10 boards for the West Region's headliner. That helped the Tar Heels (28-7) finish the game shooting 55% while dominating up front against a short-handed upstart aiming to pull off only the third opening-round takedown of a 1-seed in March Madness history.

RJ Davis, named this week as a first-team All-American by The Associated Press, had 17 of his 22 points after halftime for the Tar Heels.

UNC also played with the backing of a blue-clad crowd about 2 1/2 hours from its Chapel Hill campus. And the Tar Heels will have that again for the next step: a marquee matchup with Michigan State and Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo on Saturday.

The Tar Heels dominated this one inside, finishing with 48 points in the paint and a 43-24 rebounding advantage to go with 17 second-chance points.

Melvin Council Jr. and Julian Brown each scored 18 points for the Seahawks (17-16), who won their first-ever NCAA game by holding off Howard in the First Four on Tuesday night. Wagner shot 39.7% for the game.

READ MORE Florida's Todd Golden signs a 2-year extension worth $4.1M annually a day before team's NCAA opener FAU's Dusty May enters March Madness eyeing return to Final Four as speculation swirls about future March Madness marks the end for Dan Monson as Arizona blows out Long Beach State 85-65

UNC had the clear edge inside against a team with only seven available scholarship players and only one - 6-foot-9, 255-pound Keyontae Lewis - offering any notable size. By halftime, the 6-10 Bacot had a double-double after getting multiple deep-block touches while the 6-9 Withers showed plenty of energy in the paint by tallying his first double-digit scoring output since Jan. 17.

The Tar Heels gradually stretched that lead out after the break. That included Davis and Harrison Ingram hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, followed shortly by an alley-oop dunk in transition from Elliot Cadeau to a high-flying Withers for a 70-50 lead with 8:33 left.


Wagner: The Seahawks' story was an impressive show of resilience for a team that was picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference when they had a full roster. But coach Donald Copeland found himself losing players to injuries ever since, so much so that the team hadn't had a full-go practice since Dec. 27 and had used assistant coaches to help run drills. They won the NEC Tournament title to secure the program's second-ever trip to March Madness, the other coming 21 years ago.

UNC: The Tar Heels got another comfortable setting to start the tournament. The Tar Heels improved to 35-2 in NCAA games in their home state, including 13-1 here in the state's largest city. Notably, the lone loss came in their last tournament game here: a second-round loss as a 2-seed to Texas A&M.


The Tar Heels will get another matchup with the Izzo's Spartans, who have lost all four meetings with UNC in the NCAA Tournament - including in the 2005 Final Four and 2009 title game.


AP March Madness bracket: and coverage:

Article Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
Your Mailing List Provider