Tar Heels survive against Wolf Pack to get back in AP top 10

By Pete Vasquez

(Courtesy North Carolina Media Relations)

Seven months after cutting down the nets in the NCAA Championship game, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams continues to make history. Williams earned his 600th career win on Sunday as the No. 10 Tar Heels prevailed, 80-73, against the Nevada Wolf Pack.

Williams became the 33rd coach in Division I history to reach 600 wins and the third-fastest in NCAA history to reach the mark. His all-time record sits at 600-139 over 22 seasons of coaching both the North Carolina and Kansas basketball programs. He is currently the eighth active coach to reach the milestone.

Wearing a sling on his left arm, Williams coached his first game since having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Senior forward Deon Thompson posted a career-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting while collecting eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Ed Davis added 16 points and 15 rebounds, as well as three blocks for North Carolina (6-1), which endured a second-half drought.

For five long minutes, the Tar Heels could not make a basket, missing eight consecutive shots and relying on two made free throws by Larry Drew II for their only points during that span. However, an 11-3 jolt down the stretch quieted Nevada’s upset bid as North Carolina emerged victorious.

Thompson’s turnaround jumper with three and a half minutes remaining capped his scoring and gave the Tar Heels a 74-67 advantage. The Wolf Pack didn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way.

Armon Johnson scored 20 points, and Luke Babbitt had 15 points with 11 rebounds to lead Nevada (2-3). The Wolf Pack shot 41 percent in the game and missed 10 of their last 14 shots.

The win propelled North Carolina into the top ten of the AP top 25 rankings after sitting just outside as the 11th seed. The Tar Heels will now focus their attention on a championship-game rematch with No. 9 Michigan State, which takes place on Tuesday at 9 p.m. The Spartans (5-1) are coming off a 106-68 win over Massachusetts.

Tigers edge Bulldogs

Junior guard Demontez Stitt made two clutch free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining to lift No. 18 Clemson over No. 23 Butler on Sunday night in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Cal.

Stitts scored 19 points to lead Clemson, which rallied after trailing by 12 points to take a 68-67 lead on Andre Young’s 3-pointer with 1:32 to play.

Senior forward Trevor Booker blocked a shot and deflected an inbounds pass in the final second for the Tigers (6-1). Booker finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, despite playing while sick.

Gordon Hayward had 18 points and 12 rebounds, both season-highs, for the Bulldogs who fell to 4-2. Shelvin Mack added 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Mack attempted a 3-point shot in the closing seconds that would have given Butler the win but had it blocked by Booker, who knocked the ball out of bounds with 0.5 seconds remaining. Mack launched the ensuing inbounds pass cross-court to Hayward, but Booker leaped to deflect the ball as time expired.

After trailing, 26-33, at halftime, Clemson shot 57.7 percent in the second half including 6-of-13 from 3-point range.

The Tigers moved up one spot in the AP polls to No. 18 while the Bulldogs fell from the No. 12 spot to No. 23.

Wolverines fall out of rankings

The Michigan Wolverines took the biggest dive in the AP poll standings, relinquishing the No. 15 seed and falling completely out of the top 25 after losing to Alabama, 68-66, in the Old Spice Classic on Sunday night.

Sophomore forward JaMychal Green scored 20 points, including a go-ahead dunk with five seconds left and a block of a last-second layup attempt by Michigan’s Darius Morris.

Junior guard Charvez Davis added 12 points for the Crimson Tide (4-2), who won two of three games in the tournament.

Manny Harris had 26 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan (3-2), which has lost two consecutives games after a 79-65 defeat at the hands of Marquette on Friday. The two losses followed an 83-76 overtime victory over Creighton on Thursday in the tournament opener. Harris scored 20 or more points in all three tournament games.

Michigan took a 34-29 lead into halftime with the help of 12 Alabama turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game but was outscored, 39-32, in the second half.

Michigan’s next game will come against Boston College, which has not faced the Wolverines in over two years. The Eagles (4-2) took the victory that day, 77-64.

Pete Vasquez can be reached at [email protected]