KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — P.J. Hairston scored 23 points, James Michael McAdoo added 17 and North Carolina unleashed a flurry of 3-pointers to subdue gritty Villanova 78-71 in the NCAA tournament Friday night, giving coach Roy Williams his 700th career victory.
The never-say-die Wildcats (20-14) erased a 20-point deficit that North Carolina built in the first half and then nearly climbed out of a nine-point hole in the final minutes after the Tar Heels hit three consecutive 3s and once again appeared to take control.
The victory set up a possible dream matchup in the third round for Kansas fans, who have been jamming the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, about 30 minutes from the Jayhawks’ campus. The eighth-seeded Tar Heels (25-10) take on the winner between Western Kentucky and No. 1 seed Kansas, where Williams coached for 15 years and rang up more than 400 wins.
Picking on a season-long weakness for the ninth-seeded Wildcats, North Carolina shot 11 of 21 from 3-point range while getting outrebounded 37-28.
JayVaughn Pinkston had 20 points and Darrun Hilliard scored 18 for Villanova.
After UNC took a seemingly comfortable 65-56 lead on Hairston’s 3-pointer and McAdoo’s jumper, Ryan Arcidiacono answered with Villanova’s second 3-pointer, cutting the lead to 65-59. But Marcus Paige dropped in a short jumper and put the Tar Heels on top 67-59 before a media timeout with 3:03 to go.
A pair of foul shots by Arcidiacono, James Bell’s 3-pointer and Pinkston’s two free throws sliced the lead to 67-66. Paige then drilled a 3 and Hairston completed a three-point play a little while later for a 76-68 lead with 42 seconds left.
Earlier, trying to protect a precarious 54-50 lead over the plucky Wildcats, North Carolina went to its strongest weapon and unleashed 3-pointers on three straight possessions by Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Hairston again.
Shooting from long range, the Tar Heels were openly exploiting a season-long weakness for Villanova, which had struggled with perimeter defense.
Paige had 14 points and Bullock added 15 as Williams also extended his NCAA record of consecutive tournament appearances with at least one win to 21.
Mouphtaou Yarou scored 17 points and Arcidiacono had 10 for Villanova.
A 15-0 run midway through the first half led to a 32-12 North Carolina lead and Williams seemed destined to comfortably cruise to victory No. 700. A jumper by McAdoo gave North Carolina its biggest lead with 7 minutes to go in the half.
But after going without a field goal from the 10:56 mark to 5:16 showing on the game clock, the Wildcats regrouped, pounced on some sudden sloppiness by North Carolina and closed out the half on a 14-3 spree to go into halftime trailing only 37-29.
Then, opening the second half on an 11-3 spurt, they finally caught up when Hilliard’s layup tied it 40-all at the 16:04 mark.
Hilliard’s bucket and Pinkston’s putback gave Villanova a 44-42 lead, its first since it was 4-3. But at the 12:06 mark, Bullock’s third 3-pointer gave North Carolina a 47-45 advantage.
Paige, Hairston and McDonald all hit 3-pointers while the Wildcats were committing five turnovers during North Carolina’s first-half run. After Leslie McDonald took a pass from Bullock and moved in for a layup, Hairston scored on an underhand scoop and McDonald drilled a 3 — putting North Carolina on top 28-11.
Two free throws by McAdoo made it 30-11, then Pinkston and Arcidiacono hit free throws before Pinkston dropped in a jumper to end the Wildcats’ field goal drought.
Pinkston got open for a 12-footer and Hilliard followed with another short jumper, making it 37-23. After a Tar Heels turnover, Tony Chennault kept the spree alive with another bucket.
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