NCAA

Inside-outside job lifts Tar Heels to 83-66 win over Orange

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Inside-outside job lifts Tar Heels to 83-66 win over Orange

By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- North Carolina's latest step on the way to a title was shaping up as strictly an inside job.

Out of nowhere, Marcus Paige figured out how to hit from 3-point land and the Tar Heels put an end to any hopes of another Syracuse comeback.

Using layups, floaters and putbacks -- then, finally, three very timely 3s from Paige -- the Tar Heels outmuscled Syracuse 83-66 on Saturday to move a win away from the program's sixth national title.

Paige finished with 13 points and Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson led North Carolina (33-6) with 16 apiece, as the Tar Heels, the lone No. 1 seed in the Final Four, beat Jim Boeheim's 10th-seeded Orange for the third time this season and advanced to Monday's title game against Villanova.

Earlier, the Wildcats made 11 of 18 shots from behind the 3-point line in a 95-51 win over Oklahoma, to debunk the theory that nobody could shoot in Houston's cavernous stadium.

Then, the Tar Heels, ranked 284th in the country this season from long range, reversed that one-game trend. They bricked up 3 after 3, going 0-for-10 in the first half and barely drawing iron on some of them. Paige opened the second half with North Carolina's 11th straight miss, and for the next 10 minutes, the Tar Heels basically ignored the 3-point line.

Only when Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson triggered a 10-0 Syracuse run to trim a 17-point deficit to seven did Carolina start thinking long range again. Paige made three 3s and Theo Pinson hit another to stifle the rally and make Carolina almost respectable from the 3-point line: 4 for 17 for the game.

"We had a brain lapse there for about three minutes in the second half, but other than that I thought we were really good defensively against a team that's hard to guard," said Carolina coach Roy Williams, in search of his third title.

Kennedy Meeks finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, including a paddy cake putback after batting a second offensive rebound to himself off glass. That gave the Heels a 67-53 lead.

Before Paige found his range, Carolina built its lead on the inside, with big-time help from an in-your-face defense that held Syracuse's leading scorer Michael Gbinije to 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting.

"We didn't have to play perfect, but we had to shoot better tonight," Boeheim said.

The Orange only went 8 for 25 from 3-point range.

In all, North Carolina offered a reminder of the days before the 3-point shot was invented, when the way to really beat a zone -- and Boeheim's 2-3 is the best in the game -- was to make blink-of-an-eye passes in and around the paint and crash the offensive glass to take advantage of a defense that doesn't put bodies on bodies when the ball goes up.

That plan still works.

Early in the second half, Jackson made a jump pass from the corner to the lane, where Paige was waiting and batted the ball with an open hand over to Meeks, who dunked.

A bit later, Joel Berry got an easy offensive rebound and a layup to put the Tar Heels ahead by 17.

North Carolina finished with 16 second-chance points on 16 offensive boards. Even more telling were points in the paint: Tar Heels 50, Orange 32.

Syracuse trailed by 16 in its crazy comeback victory over Virginia last week to make it here. But there was no full-court press that could beat the Heels, and no meltdown awaiting from them either.

Cooney led the Orange (23-14), the first No. 10 seed to make it to the Final Four, with 22 points. Richardson had 17, but after his 3 trimmed the deficit to seven with 9:48 left, Syracuse couldn't pull closer.

"I'm more proud of this team than ... of any team I've coached," Boeheim said. "This team battled through an awful lot of things."

Namely, it was Boeheim's nine-game suspension in the wake of NCAA troubles that made the early season a soap opera.

North Carolina is facing an NCAA investigation of its own, one that has taken a toll on Williams.

That can wait until after Monday, though, when Villanova will be the only thing on North Carolina's mind.

"Enjoy the Dickens out of it until midnight," Williams said, "and then worry about that other team."

TIP-INS

North Carolina: Meeks missed only two shots and tipped both of them back to himself. His line for the last two games: 11 for 13 from the field with 11 rebounds. ... Overall, Carolina outrebounded Syracuse 43-31.

Syracuse: Boeheim on whether he's considering retirement: "Why do you guys always ask me that? Make sure you ask Roy."

UP NEXT

North Carolina: Monday vs. Villanova for the program's sixth title.

Syracuse: Season over.

Georgetown snaps 4-game road losing streak, tops Butler

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Georgetown snaps 4-game road losing streak, tops Butler

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marcus Derrickson tied a career-high with 27 points, on 11-of-13 shooting, for his eighth 20-plus point game this season and Georgetown beat Butler 87-83 on Tuesday night.

After Georgetown missed two free throws, Kamar Baldwin made a scoop shot in the lane and Sean McDermott stole the inbounds pass, leading to another Baldwin basket to pull Butler to 84-81 with 1:29 to go.

Butler had a chance to tie it in the closing seconds, but Baldwin's long 3-pointer was short and Jahvon Blair sealed it at the line at 4.5.

Jessie Govan had his 12th double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Georgetown (15-10, 5-9 Big East). Trey Dickerson, a senior averaging 3.5 points per game, set a career-high in the first half with 12 points and finished with 18.

Kelan Martin had 22 points and eight rebounds to reach 20 points for the 17th time this season for Butler (17-10, 7-7). Tyler Wideman added 19 points and Baldwin had 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

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Virginia jumps to top of new AP poll for first time since 1982

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Virginia jumps to top of new AP poll for first time since 1982

A loss didn't prevent Virginia from climbing to No. 1 in AP men's basketball poll for the first time in more than 35 years after all.

The Cavaliers rose a slot to sit atop Monday's AP Top 25 despite an overtime home loss Saturday to Virginia Tech, part of an upset-filled week that allowed for plenty of uncertainty in the poll. The Cavaliers (23-2, 12-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) earned 30 of 65 first-place votes to outdistance No. 2 Michigan State and rise above the turmoil that included last week's top three teams all losing.

Tony Bennett's Cavaliers had been at No. 2 before this season, but this is the first time the program has reached No. 1 since December 1982 — the senior season of 7-foot-4 great Ralph Sampson — back when the poll ranked only 20 teams. And that team fell out of that spot after its improbable upset loss to Chaminade in Hawaii, regarded by many as the biggest upset in the history of college sports.

Virginia looked set to reach the No. 1 spot after Villanova's home loss to St. John's before losing to the Hokies. Still, the Cavaliers ended up there a day after the NCAA selection committee had them as the No. 1 overall seed in its reveal of the top 16 seeds to date.

The Cavaliers — whose 12 previous weeks at No. 1 all came during the Sampson era — play with the top ranking for the first time since the Chaminade loss on Tuesday at Miami.

"I do not get too carried away with where we are," Bennett said after the loss to the Hokies. "I always say 'thus far,' and now we have to prove it again. ... Now we are going to get a chance to do it again and we are going to have to fight like crazy every game. Everybody is capable of beating everybody in this league and that is reality. If you are little off it is not enough."

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TOP-5 CHANGES

Michigan State (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) climbed two spots after a weekend win against Purdue in a top-5 matchup. The Spartans, who reached No. 1 for a week in January, earned 21 first-place votes.

Next came Villanova (23-2, 10-2 Big East), who fell to third after a five-week stay at No. 1 and earned nine first-place votes. Xavier (23-3, 11-2 Big East) inched up a spot to fourth and earned five first-place votes, followed by Cincinnati (23-2, 12-0 American Athletic Conference) at No. 5.

This is Xavier's highest ranking in its history, while Cincinnati is in the top 5 for the first time since spending a good chunk of the 2001-02 season there.

PURDUE'S SLIDE

Purdue (23-4, 12-2 Big East) fell from third to sixth after losing to Ohio State and Michigan State last week. Those losses snapped the nation's longest winning streak at 19 games, marking Purdue's first losses since falling to Tennessee and Western Kentucky on consecutive November days in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

Texas Tech was next at No. 7, followed by Ohio State, Gonzaga and Auburn to round out the top 10.

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TOP RISERS

Rivalry wins against Duke and North Carolina State helped North Carolina climb seven spots to No. 14 for the week's biggest jump. It continued the Tar Heels' wild swings in poll positioning, including a nine-slot drop last month and two other slides of eight slots.

Ohio State rose six spots to No. 8 after the Purdue win, while No. 11 Clemson was up five spots.

LONGEST SLIDES

Oklahoma and freshman star Trae Young had the biggest fall of the week, down six spots to No. 23. The Sooners have lost three straight and six of eight after Saturday's loss at Iowa State .

St. Mary's (15th) and Arizona (17th) both fell four spots.

NEWCOMERS

The newcomers aren't entirely new this week. Both No. 21 Texas A&M and No. 25 Arizona State have been ranked multiple weeks this season and appeared in the top 10, with the Sun Devils reaching No. 3 on Christmas Day.

SLIDING OUT

Kentucky fell out of the rankings for the second time this season -- It hadn't happened since March 2014 before this year -- from No. 24 after three straight losses. Miami fell out from No. 25 after losing at Boston College.

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