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Notre Dame falls short in bid for Final Four against UNC

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Notre Dame falls short in bid for Final Four against UNC

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Roy Williams will take his postgame injuries as long as he and the North Carolina Tar Heels are headed to the Final Four.

The Hall of Fame coach bit his tongue and cut a finger during the net-cutting ceremonies after the Tar Heels beat Notre Dame 88-74 on Sunday night, leaving them as the only No. 1 seed in the Final Four.

"I was screaming. I started to take a step back and I felt like the ladder moved and I grabbed. When I grabbed I grabbed the end of the scissors and it started bleeding," he said.

That's OK since his team will head to Houston.

"Never in my life have I wanted something for someone else as I wanted to get these guys to Houston," he said.

Brice Johnson had 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Tar Heels reached the Final Four for a record 19th time and the first since 2009, when they won the last of their five national championships.

North Carolina (32-6) will face Syracuse, the 10th seed from the Midwest Regional, in another all-Atlantic Coast Conference matchup in the Final Four on Saturday. The Orange beat top-seeded Virginia 68-62.

"He should be used to cutting nets," senior point guard Marcus Paige said of Williams. "He said 'I'll bleed for you guys if you keep playing the way we're playing.' We'll get him patched up."

Sunday's halves were very different. In the first, the teams went shot for shot with both teams shooting over 58 percent and neither leading by more than six points. The second half was run for run and the Tar Heels, taking control of the boards, had the last and biggest one to seize control over the final 10 minutes.

It was Johnson's school-record 23rd double-double of the season.

"It took us four years to do this, but we're finally there," Johnson said of the Final Four.

Paige added 13 points and Joel Berry II had 11 points and eight assists for North Carolina, which has won its four tournament games by an average of 15.4 points. The Tar Heels finished with a 32-15 rebound advantage. They had more offensive rebounds than Notre Dame had on the defensive end.

"We got going a little bit and all of a sudden they made a huge run," Williams said of the second half. "(In a timeout) Marcus said, 'It's a game of runs. They made runs. We're going to make our run.'"

Demetrius Jackson had 26 points and V.J. Beachem had 18 for sixth-seeded Notre Dame (24-12), which has made the Final Four once, in 1978.

"I thought we put ourselves in position," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We took that one-point lead and they answered it like men. ... I thought the way they answered that run was championship level."

[MORE: Notre Dame's furious finish ends Badgers' NCAA Tournament run]

The teams split their games before the tournament, with the Tar Heels winning by 31 in the conference tournament two weeks ago.

The second half Sunday seemed like it was going be similar with North Carolina making a big run.

This time, a 12-0 run gave the Tar Heels a 63-52 lead with 9:19 to play. North Carolina showed its depth during the run with the final eight points coming from reserves Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson.

North Carolina opened the second half with an 8-2 run and Kennedy Meeks scoring all the Tar Heels' points down low. Notre Dame answered with 12 straight points. During that run, Johnson was charged with a technical foul for throwing the ball high in the air after he was called for a foul. He apologized after the game.

"That was dumb on my part," Johnson said. "But my teammates did a very good job of playing. They stepped up during a time of need."

After an incredible first half in which both teams played about as well as they could offensively, North Carolina led 43-38.

Both teams shot better than 58 percent from the field and from 3-point range. In one stretch, North Carolina went 4 minutes without missing. It was the third half this tournament that North Carolina shot better than 60 percent. North Carolina finished 61.5 percent for the game (32 for 52).

Notre Dame shot 55.1 percent (27 for 49).

Williams went to a 1-3-1 zone for a while trying to slow down the Fighting Irish from 3-point range. They made five of their first eight from beyond the arc and finished 6 for 10 for the half and 9 for 18 for the game.

North Carolina was 16 for 25 from the field (64 percent) and 4 from 6 on 3s, while the Fighting Irish were 14 for 24 from the field (58.3 percent).

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

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AP

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The Rivals.com four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

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USA TODAY

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."