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March 25, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - North Carolina is back and put the whole package - offense, defense and toughness - on display while dismantling Marquette.
Just a year after missing the NCAA party, the kids from Chapel Hill stole the show at their East Regional semifinal.
Tyler Zeller had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and North Carolina took control early for a change, rolling to an 81-63 victory on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds as the second-seeded Tar Heels (29-7) moved to within a game of reaching the Final Four for the third time in four years.
Wow might have been the best word to describe the effort by a team that doesn't start or really play a senior. The Tar Heels limited No. 11 seed Marquette (22-15) to 15 first-half points while opening a 25-point lead.
The 15 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by North Carolina in a half in 144 NCAA tournament games, and the Golden Eagles' 20 percent shooting from the field came on 6 of 30 shooting.
Davante Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams used all but two of his timeouts in the opening half to try to turn things around to no effect.
Trailing 10-8 with 12:43 to go, North Carolina went on a 19-0 run, forcing Marquette to miss 14 straight shots. The game was just about over at that point.
Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left and Rob Brandenburg blocked a shot at the buzzer, giving Virginia Commonwealth a 72-71 victory over Florida State in overtime in a Southwest Region semifinal Friday night.
In the first NCAA tournament game between teams seeded 10 and 11, the lower seeded Rams blew a nine-point lead by scoring only three points in the final 7:37 of regulation. They never trailed by more than four all night, but found themselves down 71-70 when Burgess scored the kind of basket that will live in NCAA tournament lore.
On an inbounds play with 7.9 seconds left, Joey Rodriguez threw a nifty bounce pass between two Florida State defenders. Burgess caught it in the lane and went up before the defenders could recover. He banked it in, just to be safe.
On Florida State's final possession, Derwin Kitchen drove the baseline and passed it outside. The shot may have been too late, but Brandenburg avoided any controversy by swatting it, sending the Rams (27-11) into the final eight for the first time.
Kitchen scored 23 points to lead Florida State (23-11), which hadn't been this far since 1993.
Chris Singleton - FSU's regular-season leader in scoring, rebounds and steals, and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year by league coaches - almost saved it. He made a tying 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation and a go-ahead layup across the baseline with 29.2 seconds left in overtime. He finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, easily his best in three tournament games after missing five weeks with a broken and surgically repaired foot.
Burgess led VCU as he's done all tournament, scoring 26 points. He was 6 of 7 on 3-pointers. His only miss was a blocked shot in overtime.
Brandon Rozzell scored 16 points, including a series of 3-pointers during the second-half surge that put the Rams back in front - seemingly for good, until their collapse. Jamie Skeen scored 11 points and had eight rebounds.
FSU allowed the lowest field-goal shooting percentage in the country this year, but VCU shredded that. Even with their late woes, the Rams made 45 percent of their shots and were 12 of 26 from behind the arc.
VCU's previous upsets were all by at least 13 points. This one seemed headed that way when the Rams led 62-53.
But they scored only three points the rest of regulation - one measly free throw and a layup with 3:08 left that was their final points before overtime.
Kitchen and Snaer led Florida State's rally to get close, then Singleton tied it with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. VCU's final attempt of the second half was blocked by Bernard James, giving the Seminoles one last shot. As time expired, Kitchen took a long jumper that didn't get over the front rim.
Florida State used its size and tenacious defense to grab control of the game early in the second half, but couldn't pull away. The Rams tilted the game back in their favor by realizing they weren't hitting any shots inside, so they might as well go outside.
Rozzell led a flurry of 3-pointers, and VCU rode a 14-4 run to the lead. But once the Rams started misfiring, they couldn't regain their touch.
In overtime, Snaer put FSU up with a layup, then Burgess answered with a go-ahead 3-pointer from the left corner. The Rams stretched the lead to 70-67 on a pair of free throws by Rozzell, then Kitchen made a jumper to tighten it up, setting up the final heroics.