Charlotte, N.C. — Texas A&M had its big men relentlessly snatching down loose rebounds, its wing players knocking down shots and an entire roster full of guys playing with aggressive confidence.
Stunningly, reigning national champion North Carolina found no match for any of it.
And just as shockingly, the Tar Heels are heading home from the NCAA Tournament with the worst loss of Roy Williams’ Hall of Fame career.
The seventh-seeded Aggies manhandled the Tar Heels 86-65 Sunday in the second round of the West Region, marking the second straight year the titleholder has been bounced from March Madness before the Sweet 16. They dominated the glass. They used their size to control the paint and block shots. And they pounced when UNC’s small-ball lineup couldn’t make an outside shot.
The Aggies are moving on to the round of 16 for the second time in three seasons. They will play Michigan Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
“We had a certain togetherness today,” said the 6-foot-10 Tyler Davis, who had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Aggies. “We didn’t have the fastest start, but we were together the whole time.”
It was a big upset based on the seeding, North Carolina’s tournament tradition and the fact the Tar Heels have long been practically unbeatable in NCAA games played in their home state. Yet Texas A&M – a team that peaked at No. 5 in the AP Top 25 in December before going on a wild ride due to midseason injuries and suspensions – sure made it all look, well, routine.
As for the second-seeded Tar Heels (26-11), any dream of making a third straight Final Four or repeating as champ was all but gone barely 90 seconds into the second half as the Aggies (22-12) went up 20.
“It’s the most inadequate feeling I’ve ever felt,” Williams said. “I feel it all the time, last game of the year, but I think I felt it more today than any other time. I’m not ashamed to say I love these kids.”
Davis and fellow 6-foot-10 forward Robert Williams helped the Aggies take a 50-36 rebounding advantage against a team that still managed to rank second nationally in rebounding margin, with Williams finishing with 13 rebounds. T.J. Starks scored 21 points to lead the offense, which shot 52 percent and made 10 of 24 3-pointers – several coming with cool composure any time UNC tried to muster a push.
Joel Berry II scored 21 points in his final game for UNC, which fell to 34-2 in NCAA games in their home state, the only other loss coming in 1979. The Tar Heels shot just 33 percent, including 6 of 31 (.194) on 3-pointers.
It came on the same court where, two nights earlier, UMBC made history by becoming the first 16-seed to beat a 1 when the Retrievers upset top overall seed Virginia. And as with that game, the upstart dispatched the favorite with surprising ease.
Williams’ previous worst loss in NCAA play had come in the Tar Heels’ 84-66 loss to his former Kansas program in the 2008 Final Four. This was also UNC’s worst NCAA Tournament loss since falling by 23 points to Arkansas in the 1990 Sweet 16.
And it was the worst loss by a reigning national champion since Arizona’s 25-point loss to Utah in the 1998 Elite Eight.
“(Williams) is a very athletic guy, he was going up and getting the rebounds,” Berry said. “Tyler Davis, he was a man on the boards, and a man inside. And there was just nothing we could do about it.”
Florida State 75, Xavier 70: PJ Savoy made a 3-pointer with 1:08 left to give Florida State its first lead of the second half, and the Seminoles rallied from a 12-point deficit to beat top-seeded Xavier 75-70 on Sunday night in the second round of the West Region.
The Seminoles, on their way to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 16 for the first time since 2011, made Xavier the second No. 1 seed ousted in the first weekend, sending the Musketeers out along with Virginia. Now Florida State (22-11) will play fourth-seeded Gonzaga on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Savoy also hit a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds left putting Florida State up 73-70. Kerem Kanter shot an air ball from beyond the arc at the top of the key with 7 seconds to go for Xavier, and CJ Walker added a pair of free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining. Terance Mann picked off a long pass by Paul Scruggs off Xavier’s inbound pass before running in front of Seminoles’ fans to start the party.
Kansas State 50, UMBC 43: Barry Brown scored 18 points, and Kansas State ended UMBC’s brief, but historic run in the NCAA Tournament.
Two nights after UMBC became the first 16 seed to beat a No. 1, the Retrievers ran out of magic against the Wildcats.
The Wildcats (24-11) move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010 when they lost in the Elite Eight to Butler. They will face Kentucky on Thursday night.
UMBC (25-11) had only had two field goals in the final six minutes and shot just 29.8 percent for the game.
UMBC’s scrappy defense forced 18 turnovers, but managed just three points off those. They finished 6 of 22 from 3-point range two nights after lighting up Virginia, and 9 of 18 from the free throw line.
Nevada 75, Cincinnati 73: Josh Hall converted an offensive rebound for the tiebreaking basket with 9.1 seconds left as Nevada erased a 22-point deficit in the final 11 minutes.
Nevada’s stirring comeback – the second-largest in tournament history – came just two days after the seventh-seeded Wolf Pack rallied from 14 points down to beat Texas 87-83 for its first NCAA victory since 2007.
The Wolf Pack (28-7) move on to an all-upstart South Region semifinal matchup with 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago (30-5) on Thursday night.
Cincinnati, the No. 2 seed, never trailed until Hall’s tiebreaking basket but watched its lead disintegrate as it failed to make a basket in the final 5:45.
With the game tied in the closing seconds, Hall got a rebound off a missed shot by Cody Martin. Hall made a move in the paint and then hit the winning basket. Cincinnati (31-5) never got off a shot before the buzzer. Cane Broome briefly lost control of the ball and then passed to the area of Gary Clark as the final seconds ticked away.
Clemson 84, Auburn 53: Gabe DeVoe scored 22 points and Elijah Thomas had 18 points and 11 rebounds for Clemson, which closed the first half with a 25-4 run that helped it beat cold-shooting Auburn.
In a matchup between Southern schools better known for football, the No. 5 seed Clemson Tigers proved far more adept on the hardwood than the No. 4 seed Auburn Tigers.
The blowout win put Clemson (25-9) into the Sweet 16 for the fourth time overall and the first since 1997, earning it a spot against Kansas in the regional semifinal.
Auburn, which played this season under the cloud of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, finished 26-8.
The final 10 1/2 minutes of the first half were a nightmare for Auburn, which made only 6 of 33 shots (18.2 percent) in the first half and 17 of 66 overall (25.8 percent).
West Virginia 94, Marshall 71: Jevon Carter scored 28 points, Lamont West added 18 off the bench and West Virginia overwhelmed its in-state rival beating Marshall 94-71 on Sunday night in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountain State showdown more than 2,000 miles from home was a one-sided celebration for the fifth-seeded Mountaineers. Bigger, more physical and making fewer mistakes, the Mountaineers (26-10) took control with a 19-0 first-half run, and Carter’s three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the second half made sure there wouldn’t be a rally coming from the 13th-seeded Thundering Herd.
West Virginia will face top-seed Villanova in the round of 16 next Friday.