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March Madness bracket 2016: North Carolina holds off Notre Dame to reach Final Four

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The Tar Heels are going back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.

No. 6 Notre Dame put up a valiant fight against No. 1 North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but the Tar Heels were to much for the Irish to overcome. UNC punches its Final Four ticket with the 88-74 win, heading to the national semifinals for the first time since 2009. Brice Johnson had yet another double-double, his third straight of the tournament.

Unlike the slow-paced affair of Virginia/Syracuse, Notre Dame and North Carolina were running up and down the court and scoring points in bunches. Neither team really pulled out to a large lead in the first half.

Perhaps the highlight of the first half was this monster dunk by V.J. Beachum.

The game remained a close and entertaining one right up to halftime, when the Tar Heels took a 43-38 lead into the locker room. At one point they rattled off an 8-0 run, which accounted for the five-point difference at the half. Both teams were red-hot from the floor — UNC shot 64 percent in the first half, while Notre Dame's field goal percentage was 58.3.

The Tar Heels got a fast start to the second, opening up an 11-point lead, the biggest of the game so far. The Irish's shots stopped falling and they got scare when Demetrius Jackson limped off the court with over 15 minutes left in the game. But Jackson stayed in the game and nailed some clutch shots to get his team back within six points.

The Irish continued their comeback, aided by a technical foul by Brice Johnson. Johnson was forced to the bench with three fouls, Notre Dame took advantage, taking its first lead since midway through the first half. But the Irish's comeback was short-lived — UNC pulled off a 12-0 run to take its commanding lead back. The Tar Heels would not reqlinquish their lead for the rest of the game, keeping Notre Dame at a comfortable distance.

Despite his foul troubles, Johnson was once again the top scorer for UNC, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds. All five starters scored in double digits as the Tar Heeels shot 61.5 percent from the field. Jackson led the Irish with 26 points and Beachum added 18 in the losing effort.

The Tar Heels will now meet fellow ACC member Syracuse in the Final Four.

Bracket

Keep up with our printable bracket here.

Sunday's scores

No. 10 Syracuse 68, No. 1 Virginia 62
No. 1 North Carolina 88, No. 6 Notre Dame 74

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