No. 9 seed Wisconsin is onto the round of 32 after knocking off No. 8 North Carolina 85-62 in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday.
The Badgers (18-12) struggled to win at Purdue's Mackey Arena during Big Ten play but made the trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, worth it by eliminating a UNC team that had won six of its last nine games heading into the tournament.
It's the first time Wisconsin has advanced to the second round under head coach Greg Gard since his first full season in Madison in 2016-17. The Tar Heels (18-11), meanwhile, are heading home after one game for the first time since a two-point loss to No. 13 Weber State in 1999. It's the first Roy Williams-coached Carolina team to exit the tournament without a victory and the first time Williams has failed to advance out of the first round in his career.
The Badgers will face the No. 1 seed in the South Region, Baylor, on Sunday.
Brad Davison, G, Wisconsin Badgers: 29 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist
D'Mitrik Trice, G, Wisconsin Badgers: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Armando Bacot, F, North Carolina Tar Heels: 15 points, 4 rebounds
Garrison Brooks, F, North Carolina Tar Heels: 10 points, 10 rebounds
Davison Dominates Tar Heels
Brad Davison came into the NCAA tournament averaging 9.4 points per game this season. The senior finished one point off his career high of 30 in the first round against UNC.
A 6’4” guard from Minnesota, Davison seemed to get whatever shot he wanted Friday, shooting 10 of 15 from the field with as many three-point makes (five) as the Tar Heels knocked down total. He also added six rebounds.
After taking a 40-24 halftime lead, it was the play of Davison and D’Mitrik Trice that allowed the Badgers to hold onto their lead. Both shot 50 percent or better from the floor and ensured Wisconsin would stick around in Indiana for at least two more days.
The fact that UW had consistently struggled with top teams over the latter half of the season made Friday’s performance all that more impressive.
Wisconsin lost its last nine games against ranked programs this year with its most recent victory coming over No. 21 Minnesota in December. That might’ve made this a good matchup against a poor-shooting North Carolina club that overachieved late in the year to reach the tournament.
The Badgers shot 50.8 percent from the field, out-rebounded UNC 37-34 and won the turnover battle 10-7 without trailing at any point Friday.
Davison led the way from start to finish.
North Carolina’s Early Exit
Nothing about the 2020-21 season went as planned for the Tar Heels.
After opening up 3-0, UNC dropped back-to-back games against ranked opponents, then dropped two more to unranked foes shortly after. Before Williams could correct course, the Tar Heels were outside the Top 25 and trying to find any way to survive.
The game plan the team settled on featured playing through forwards Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot and hoping they could keep the contest close enough. Anything less than that, and UNC was in trouble.
Trouble found Williams’ club right away Friday.
As the Badgers stormed out to a 23-point lead, there was little UNC could do to turn the momentum in its favor. A lack of outside shooting (five of 13) left the Heels unable to go on any prolonged scoring runs even as Brooks and Bacot began heating up in the second half.
Bacot scored all 15 of his points in the second half after missing his lone shot in the first frame. Brooks didn’t fare much better, going one of seven from the field before halftime.
That led to the Tar Heels finishing with at least 12 losses for the second time in as many years and failing to reach the second round for the first time this millennium.
Wisconsin will return to Mackey and prepare to face No. 1 Baylor on Sunday. A tipoff time has not been announced as of Friday.