MEMPHIS — All you need to know about North Carolina’s beatdown of Butler is that Luke Maye had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
That would be the same Luke Maye who had never before had a double-double. Who had scored in double figures only four times before Friday night. Who had reached double figures in rebounds just once.
When a guy like that beats you, you just have to chalk it up to one of those nights. Oh, that and the fact that North Carolina is really, really good.
Fully recovered from its second-round scare by Arkansas, the top-seeded Tar Heels roared into the Elite Eight with a 92-80 victory over Butler. Joel Berry II, who had declared his sprained right ankle “close to 100%,” sure looked it, scoring a game-high 26 on 8-of-13 shooting. Justin Jackson added 24.
BOX SCORE: Tar Heels 92, Bulldogs 80
Next up for Carolina: either second-seeded Kentucky or third-seeded UCLA on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
North Carolina had lost just once in the Sweet Sixteen as the No. 1 seed, but that didn’t make coach Roy Williams any less nervous about this game. Fourth-seeded Butler had won the last two times it had faced a No. 1 seed, advancing to the national championship game each time.
In 2010, the Bulldogs knocked off Syracuse in the Sweet 16. The next year it was Pittsburgh that fell, in the second round.
Butler had also beaten North Carolina the last two times the teams played, a fact Williams pointed out Thursday.
“They’ve played us twice in the last five years and beaten us both times,” Williams said, “so they’ve got my attention, to say the least.”
To be fair, it wasn’t hard to get the Tar Heels’ attention after the Arkansas game. Runners-up last year, North Carolina is a trendy pick to win it all – especially with defending champion Villanova knocked out in the second round.
But the Tar Heels needed some smothering defense and a couple of timely buckets down the stretch to hold off Arkansas, and they were well aware that wouldn’t cut it the further into the tournament they got. They let the Bulldogs know early on that there would be no repeat, breaking the game open with a 17-2 run that included a pair of 3s by Maye.
Maye’s second 3 made it 30-14. The Bulldogs got within 40-32 on a 3-pointer by Andrew Chrabascz, but Maye scored on a layup, Kennedy Meeks stole the ball at the other end and fed Jackson for a layup and Maye had a 3-pointer bounce high off the rim before dropping into the basket.
Just like that, North Carolina was back up 47-32, and Butler never got within double figures again.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SWEET 16