Coby White, No. 1 UNC to Play Auburn in Sweet 16 After Win vs. No. 9 Washington

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2019

COLUMBUS, OHIO - MARCH 24:  Coby White #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives with the ball against Nahziah Carter #11 of the Washington Huskies during their game in the Second Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The No. 1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament following an 81-59 win over the No. 9 Washington Huskies on Sunday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

The Tar Heels had a harder time than many envisioned in the opening round against the 16th-seeded Iona Gaels, due in part to Coby White's 4-of-14 shooting. The freshman guard bounced back with 17 points and hit six of his 11 field-goal attempts.

Nassir Little came off the bench and chipped in 20 points in the win.

Jaylen Nowell and Noah Dickerson came to play in Washington's first-round victory over the Utah State Aggies, combining to score 39 points. North Carolina largely held the pair in check, limiting them to 22 points.

Although North Carolina only led by eight points, 41-33, at the half, the Heels' advantage felt bigger with the way White and Luke Maye were performing.

White had the hot hand, shooting 4-of-5 from beyond the arc for 12 points in the opening frame. He was firing from NBA range and hitting step-back jumpers from the corner.

Maye, on the other hand, was doing the dirty work underneath the basket.

The senior forward finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and nearly had a double-double in the first half (13 points, eight boards).

Were it not for the team's 10 turnovers, UNC likely would've had a more comfortable lead heading into the locker room. The Tar Heels played a much cleaner game in the second half, turning the ball over five times. They also locked down defensively, holding Washington to 26 points.

Long-range shooting helped power Washington's offense against Utah State. The Huskies were 10-of-17 from beyond the arc. That efficiency was nowhere to be found Sunday, as they were 9-of-29 on three-pointers.

The zone defense that has served the Huskies well at times this year was instead a liability. The Tar Heels had the individual playmakers and collective shooting to tear the zone to pieces.

An offensive surge in the second half helped North Carolina pre-emptively end any comeback attempt by Washington. A David Crisp three-pointer brought the Huskies to within five points at the 19:15 mark of the second half.

The Tar Heels responded with a 13-0 run to break the game open. Maye and fellow senior Cameron Johnson were responsible for 12 of those points. North Carolina wasn't exactly on the ropes, but two of the team's most experienced players stepped up to ensure the team avoided any unnecessary trouble.

As much as Maye, White and Johnson are responsible for getting UNC to this point, Little helps take them to a different level. Being able to bring the No. 3 recruit in the 2018 recruiting class on as a reserve is a massive luxury for head coach Roy Williams.

Little has fallen short of expectations, yet Sunday is an example of how he can be a major X-factor on both offense and defense.

North Carolina was largely unconvincing in the first round. The Tar Heels trailed by five at the half, and the talent gap was a decisive factor. The Gaels ran out of steam because they couldn't possibly match UNC shot for shot.

This performance was a perfect contrast and will get everyone back onboard. No team looks stronger in the Midwest Regional.

      

What's Next?

This is the fourth time in five years North Carolina has reached the regional semifinals. The Tar Heels will meet the No. 5 Auburn Tigers, who manhandled the Kansas Jayhawks in an 89-75 win Saturday.

Related

    Dawkins: Pitino 'Doesn’t Know What’s Going On'

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Dawkins: Pitino 'Doesn’t Know What’s Going On'

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report

    Sean Miller Told Dawkins He'd 'Handle' Ayton Recruitment

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Sean Miller Told Dawkins He'd 'Handle' Ayton Recruitment

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Former Bama Standout Transferring to UCF

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Former Bama Standout Transferring to UCF

    al.com
    via al.com

    Which Draft Prospects Are NBA-Ready Now?

    UNC Basketball logo
    UNC Basketball

    Which Draft Prospects Are NBA-Ready Now?

    Jonathan Wasserman
    via Bleacher Report