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Upstart Texas A&M rolls North Carolina for Sweet 16 berth
Aggies crush Tar Heels with 3-point shoting
 
Published Sunday, March 18, 2018 9:25 am
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was left to ponder what went wrong in the Tar Heels' 86-65 loss to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Texas A&M hasn’t stopped dancing.

The Aggies (22-12), No. 7 in the West Region beat No. 2 North Carolina, the 2017 national champion, 86-65 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in program history. They face No. 3 Michigan (30-7), which is unbeaten in their last 11 games, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on March 22.

“It’s a really good feeling to keep dancing,” said forward Tonny Trocha-Morelos, the Aggies’ only four-year senior, who finished with seven points and three boards against the Tar Heels.

North Carolina (26-11) conceded the lead with 8:58 to play in the first half when Texas A&M center Tyler Davis hit a jumper to put the Aggies up 21-20. They never trailed again.

“I didn’t picture it ending like this,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said of a team who had come into Spectrum Center undefeated in five previous tournament games. They have never beaten the Aggies in the NCAA tournament, and are 2-2 overall.

Williams emphasized that if a team wanted to feel good about their three-point percentage, they only needed to play the Tar Heels, who struggle to guard the perimeter. The Aggies finished with 10 threes, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half to North Carolina’s 1-of-13. The Tar Heels finished 6-of-31 from three-point range.

Tar Heel senior guard Joel Berry and freshman Texas A&M guard T.J. Starks scored 21 points each.

“It’s over,” Berry said. “That’s the toughest part.”

Said Williams: “I’m not ashamed to say that I love these kids. Three of the last four years have been very difficult, and these kids were my salvation.”

Berry surpassed Michael Jordan in career scoring in the first round of the tournament, which ranks him 13th overall in Tar Heels history with 1,813 points in 144 games.

“I felt like coming to North Carolina turned my life around,” Berry said. “It turned me into a young man.”

North Carolina junior forward Luke Maye, a Hough High alumnus, finished with 13 points and 11 boards. He and Berry were the only Tar Heels to reach double figures in any category.

Texas A&M finished with five players in double-figures: junior forward D.J. Hogg (14 points and eight boards), Davis (18 points, nine boards and three blocks), Starks and junior guard Admon Gilder’s 12 points and four boards). The Aggies finished with eight blocks and 50 rebounds. North Carolina did not block a shot, and tallied 36 boards.

While the Aggies dispatched the reigning champions today, their early SEC play, including a three-game losing streak in February, left coach Billy Kennedy concerned.

“You always know your job is in jeopardy when you lose games,” Kennedy said. “Our problem was the beginning of SEC play when we had two guys with knee injuries [senior guard Duane Wilson, whose season ended against Kentucky in February and Gilder, who injured his knee against Savanah State in December]. That’s when you want to be at your best, at the beginning of conference play.”

Yet Kennedy insists that they are playing their best ball now.

“March Madness was our goal,” he said.

 

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