GENERAL NEWS

Carolina crushes Saint Peter’s, will meet Duke in Final Four

Mar 27, 2022, 6:13 PM

PHILADELPHIA — America’s favorite underdog, Saint Peter’s, shouldn’t feel all that bad. North Carolina has crushed lots of dreams over the decades.

The Tar Heels ended all hope of a March Madness miracle in the early going Sunday, getting 20 points and 22 rebounds from Armando Bacot in a wire-to-wire 69-49 runaway over 15th-seeded Saint Peter’s.

No. 8 seed Carolina (28-9) made its record 21st Final Four, and this one will be a scene like no other. On Saturday in New Orleans, it’s North Carolina vs. archrival Duke and its soon-to-be-retiring coach, Mike Krzyzewski. Three short weeks ago, the Tar Heels fractured a different sort of fairy tale — Coach K’s final home game — in a 94-81 beatdown of the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Two nights earlier, the Peacocks (21-12) looked like Final Four material. They beat Purdue to become the first 15 seed to advance to an Elite Eight.

Their hopes ended quickly in this one. They are hardly the first team to see grand plans undone by one of the country’s top-line power programs.

After Carolina’s Leaky Black missed a free throw 2 1/2 minutes in, Bacot edged in for the offensive rebound and an easy putback. It gave Carolina a 7-0 lead. In its three tournament wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, Saint Peter’s hadn’t trailed by more than six.

The Peacocks, whose 10-game win streak ended, moved the ball well and did get some looks over the first 10 minutes. Some shots went halfway down and rimmed out. Others rattled around the iron but wouldn’t fall. They trailed 21-7 after missing their first six shots, and 16 of their first 19.

Late in the first half, Daryl Banks III swooped in for what looked like a windmill jam. It got rejected — by the front of the rim. It made the Peacocks 5 for 27 on the night, and when Bacot dunked on the next possession, North Carolina led 36-15.

Fousseyni Drame led Saint Peter’s with 12 points and KC Ndefo had 10.

Were it not for Saint Peter’s, maybe North Carolina would be the underdog story of this tournament. Way back when, in 1985, another 8 seed shocked the world. It was Rollie Massimino’s 1985 Villanova team.

Then again, these are the Tar Heels. They’ve been playing as well as anyone for more than a month.

When they won at Duke on March 5, it cast a cloud over what was supposed to be a celebration of Coach K’s final home game. On Sunday, they wrecked another of those so-called “perfect” story lines.

But this is more than a consolation prize for college hoops: Next, UNC and Duke meet for the 258th time — and never with the stakes so high.

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Carolina crushes Saint Peter’s, will meet Duke in Final Four