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No. 9 North Carolina vs. Butler final: Tar Heels lose, 82-71

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Brad Stevens' Bulldogs got out to a huge early lead against a sluggish UNC team and held off a furious comeback attempt in the second half.

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

In one of the wildest games of the new college basketball season, No. 9 North Carolina almost pulled off a remarkable 23-point second-half comeback before losing to Butler, 82-71.

After blowing out Mississippi State in the first round of the Maui Invitational, the Tar Heels came out flat against the Bulldogs, falling behind 35-18 at the half. The deficit ultimately ballooned to 47-24 early in the second, but UNC picked up the tempo of the game, forcing turnovers and making three-pointers, cutting the deficit to 77-71 before ultimately falling short.

Butler, meanwhile, looked more like the team that went to two consecutive national championship games in 2010 and 2011, not the one that missed the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Bulldogs struggled mightily from beyond the arc in 2012, but hot three-point shooting from Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke (4-6) and freshman Kellen Dunham (5-9) helped them put away North Carolina on Tuesday.

The Tar Heels, who lost four players to the first round of the NBA Draft, couldn't generate efficient offense against a physical and tough Butler team, as James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston, their three biggest offensive weapons, combined to shoot 14-37 from the field.

With the win, Butler advances to the championship of the Maui Invitational, where they will play the winner of tonight's Illinois-Chaminade game.