By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 22, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C., March 21 -- Maybe in some other arena in some other state, 16th-seeded Mount St. Mary's, survivor of the play-in game, might have won over the crowd with its scrappy play in the first half against top-seeded North Carolina.
But Friday night's game was played at RBC Center, just down the road from the Tar Heels' campus, so the Mountaineers had to make do with a small group of noisy supporters sitting across from the team's bench. And they, like their fans, were overwhelmed by those wearing Carolina blue. The tournament's overall No. 1 seed cruised to a 113-74 victory.
North Carolina (33-2), which has won 12 games in a row, will face either eighth-seeded Indiana or ninth-seeded Arkansas in the second round on Sunday. Five Tar Heels scored in double-figures, led by forward Tyler Hansbrough and guard Ty Lawson, who had 21 points apiece.
"Disregard the score, we felt we played pretty well," said Mount St. Mary's guard Jeremy Goode. "There were times we felt we were competing really hard, and we were getting after them and they had to respond to what we were doing. They just had a lot more firepower than we did tonight. We showed, if anything, what Coach [Milan] Brown is trying to do at the Mount."
Mount St. Mary's (19-15) booked a spot in the field of 65 by winning the Northeast Conference tournament, and earned a date with the Tar Heels by beating Coppin State in the play-in game, the school's first NCAA tournament win. Its reward was essentially a road game inside an arena where nearly 4,000 fans had gathered Thursday just to watch the Tar Heels' open practice.
"It's definitely different from what we are used to," Hansbrough said. "It's good to see everybody pulling for us and all of the blue."
The Tar Heels are 22-1 in NCAA tournament games played in the state of North Carolina. This is the second year in a row that they opened the tournament in their home state; last year, they beat Eastern Kentucky and Michigan State in Winston-Salem.
Mount St. Mary's, however, would have been hard-pressed to beat the Tar Heels in any state. The Mountaineers prefer to play an up-tempo style, behind the 5-foot-9 Goode (15 points), but North Carolina thrives at a fast pace. The Tar Heels also had a size advantage, and their 18 offensive rebounds led to 26 points.
The Mountaineers trailed by 13 points, 54-41, after senior guard Chris Vann (16 points) converted a three-point play with 2 minutes 9 seconds left in the first half. But Mount St. Mary's didn't make another field goal until 16:18 remained in the game, and in that six-minute span, North Carolina ran off 18 points and led, 72-43.
When it was all over, after 29 players appeared in the game, the fans inside the arena stood and applauded the Mount St. Mary's players, who walked over to their fans, clapping their hands.
"I'm a competitor, I hate to lose," said Vann, who played at Gar-Field. "But when you're going up against the number one team in the country, that's a great experience. I can say I played Carolina in the final game of my college career."
¿ ARKANSAS 86, INDIANA 72: Sonny Weems kept shooting, and Darian Townes was there to clean up when he missed. The pair helped the ninth-seeded Razorbacks finally earn a second game in the NCAA tournament while bringing a swift end to the Hoosiers' tumultuous season.
Weems scored a career-high 31 points, Townes added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Weems hit 12 of 14 shots for Arkansas (23-11), which shot 54 percent and ended a five-game losing streak in NCAA tournament games dating from a first-round victory against Siena in 1999.