UNC vs. Providence: Score and Twitter Reaction from March Madness 2016

Danny WebsterAnalyst IIIMarch 20, 2016

North Carolina forward Brice Johnson (11) reacts after dunking the ball against Providence guard Jalen Lindsey (21) during the second half of a second-round men's college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Associated Press

The North Carolina Tar Heels turned a close game into a blowout in a hurry, defeating the Providence Friars 85-66 in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Saturday night in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Tar Heels big man Brice Johnson had a double-double with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, while UNC forwards Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II scored 15 points apiece. Senior point guard Marcus Paige had 12 for the top-seeded Tar Heels as they advanced to the Sweet 16 to take on the fifth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in Philadelphia, which the university is already prepared for:

North Carolina improved to 9-0 in neutral-site games this year, per ESPN Stats & Info, but it had to withstand an offensive barrage from ninth-seeded Providence. Junior point guard Kris Dunn scored a game-high 29 points in what may have been his final college tilt, and Ben Bentil had 21 for Providence.

Coming into the contest, the focus was on both teams' star duos—Dunn and Bentil for the Friars and Paige and Johnson for UNC. Early on, that was the case. Dunn scored 10 of the Friars' first 14 points, but they came at a cost. The point guard picked up his second foul of the game with 11 minutes, seven seconds left in the half.

North Carolina didn't have an answer for Dunn, but picking up two early fouls was not smart on his part, per Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk:

Dunn came out with Providence down 19-14, but the Friars turned to Bentil to get back into the game. Providence went on an 8-2 run to take a 22-21 lead, with Bentil scoring half of those points.

That was due in part to self-inflicted errors from the Tar Heels, per Marilyn Payne of WRAL:

And with Bentil leading the charge on offense, there was no limit to the Providence big man's confidence, per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports:

With Dunn on the bench, Providence needed another scoring option to take the pressure off Bentil. That came in the form of guard Kyron Cartwright, who scored seven crucial points off the bench, including this wild three-point play with 5:50 remaining in the first half:

But the Tar Heels responded, ending the first half on a 9-2 run and holding the Friars without a make from the field in the final 5:50. Providence missed its final six shots to close the first half, thanks to some stellar defense, including this block by Johnson:

Michael Wilbon of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption knows LSU Tigers forward Ben Simmons is going to get much of the hype during this summer's NBA draft, but he didn't mince words while noting who he'd like on his team:

North Carolina took a 34-30 lead into halftime, but it obtained the four-point lead while Dunn was off the floor. Dunn's presence was immediately felt in the beginning of the second half as he scored on back-to-back possessions and gave the Friars a 36-34 lead.

But the Tar Heels defense again clamped down on Providence's high-low attack. It took away space in the paint and altered shots at the rim. When Providence settled for three-point jumpers, it couldn't capitalize.

That's when Johnson and Paige began to take over. Not only was Johnson making plays on the defensive end, but Providence also could not stop him in the low post. This three-point play by Johnson with 12:45 remaining was the beginning of the end for Providence:

Once Johnson did his damage, it was Paige's turn to join the party. Providence continued to hang around, trailing by five with over 10 minutes remaining, but Paige made the play that turned the tide of the game for good, rebounding a missed three by Nate Britt and laying it in for a 52-45 lead.