JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Marcus Paige scored 22 points, including 20 in the second half, and North Carolina beat Arkansas 87-78 in the NCAA tournament on Saturday night and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in three years.
Paige missed seven of eight shots in the first half, including all three from three-point range, and was pretty much a non-factor as the Tar Heels let the Razorbacks keep things close.
But the junior guard took over in the second half, scoring 13 of his team's 17 points during a 5-minute stretch that helped North Carolina build a double-digit lead. The Tar Heels held on from there, thanks partly to Paige closing things out from the free-throw line and with his ball-handling skills.
UNC, which had to survive a tight matchup with Harvard on Thursday to make it to this game, advanced to play either No. 1 seed Wisconsin or eighth-seeded Oregon in the West Regional next week in Los Angeles. It will be Carolina's 26th appearance in the Sweet Sixteen. The Badgers and Ducks play Sunday night in Omaha.
Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Bobby Portis finished with 18 points and 14 boards.