Despite a furious comeback by Providence in the second half, North Carolina was able to avoid the upset and come away with a 79-77 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. James Michael McAdoo, a 54 percent free-throw shooter, made a free throw with 3.5 seconds to play to give North Carolina the lead and send the Tar Heels to the third round.
McAdoo missed the second free throw, but got his own rebound and was fouled again. That ran more time off the clock, and McAdoo hit another free throw to give UNC a two-point lead. North Carolina scored the final five points of the game, with a Marcus Paige three pointer tying the game at 77 with a minute to play.
North Carolina was in control for most of the first 30 minutes; Providence stayed within striking distance, but the Tar Heels were in the lead. North Carolina led, 58-49, with slightly more than 11 minutes to play, and that is when the game flipped. Providence ran off 11 straight points to take a 60-58 lead. Led by Bryce Cotton, the Friars kept attacking and led, 70-64, with 4:30 to play. North Carolina answered back and the two teams traded huge buckets during the closing stretch.
Cotton led the way for Providence, scoring a career-high 36 points. He made 13 of 23 shots and caught fire during Providence's run in the second half. He did miss a huge opportunity late, however, when McAdoo missed his second-free throw attempt. Cotton was there for the rebound, but the ball bounced off his hands and out of bounds, sealing the game for the Tar Heels.
The Friars came up just short of their first NCAA Tournament win since 1997. They were able to hang with North Carolina despite the frantic pace and playing just six players in the game. North Carolina dominated the boards, coming down with 21 offensive rebounds. That included two by McAdoo in the final seconds, which helped North Carolina advance.