Roy Williams won the 700th game of his career Friday night about an hour away from where he won the first 418 games of his career. If he wins No. 701 Sunday, he’ll upset the fan base that revered him for 15 years.
No. 8 seed North Carolina advanced to the round of 32 in the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament with a 78-71 victory over Villanova. No. 1 seed Kansas survived an upset bid by No. 16 seed Western Kentucky to advance. That will match Williams against the Jayhawks for the third time in the NCAA Tournament.
“Number 700 means I've been coaching a long time, had really, really good players,” Williams said. “The 700, that's neat. It's a lot of players at Kansas and North Carolina that have made that happen, and I realize that.”
After struggling to put away the Hilltoppers, Kansas guard Elijah Johnson was asked if the Jayhawks would be ready to face the Tar Heels in what should be an emotional afternoon in the Sprint Center.
“I think, personally, it’s just human nature to not be as prepared for a smaller team,” he said. “A North Carolina-Kansas game, I think everybody’s gonna be ready to play. There’s just gonna be so much juice in the building. Roy’s coming back. There’s gonna be a lot of fans pumped up. And I think we’ll be pumped up.”
North Carolina built a 20-point lead 13 minutes into the game and made 50 percent of its shots in the first half. Villanova, though, cut 12 points off that lead and went into halftime trailing just 37-29.
The Wildcats continue the rally into the second half and forged ahead 44-42 in the first eight minutes after intermission. Villanova then let the Tar Heels build another lead.
James Michael McAdoo’s jumper put the Tar Heels up 65-56 with 4:21 to play. And all that did was set up one more Villanova surge. JayVaughn Pinkston’s free throws with 2:14 to play brought the Wildcats to within 62-61.
Marcus Paige answered with a stone-cold 3-pointer 12 seconds later and North Carolina remained in control for its 109th NCAA Tournament victory.
The Tar Heels have won nine of their last 11 and have been playing well since Williams switched to a smaller lineup that basically uses four perimeter players. North Carolina made 11-of-21 3-pointers against Villanova and made 49 percent of its shots.