North Carolina knew it was not going to be easy to beat Ohio University on Friday night.
The Tar Heels were without point guard Kendall Marshall, the one player they could not afford to lose to injury. The Bobcats were hungry and dangerous despite being a 13 seed. Since seeding began, no 13 seed made it to the Elite Eight.
That streak stayed intact, but barely. The Tar Heels led by as many as 15 points, but had to work overtime to survive and advance. John Groce's Ohio team would not quit, and the great equalizer, the trifectas, was a huge factor. The Bobcats hit 12 of them to stay in the contest.
In the end, Tyler Zeller had the game of a lifetime with 20 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots. He was the first player to have a 20-20 performance in the NCAA tournament since Tim Duncan in 1997 against Saint Mary's.
Reggie Bullock was clutch hitting five-of-10 three-pointers, finishing with 17 points and five assists. Stillman White, filling in for Marshall, played 32 minutes and had six assists. Remarkably, the steady White did not turn the ball over while the Tar Heels had 24 of them as a team.
Harrison Barnes did not play a Barnes-like game, missing 13-of-16 shots from the floor.
Walter Offutt, the transfer from Ohio State, was super, scintillating and sensational with six trifectas and 26 points before fouling out. He will regret a key missed free throw late in regulation.
Hall of Famer Roy Williams is one step away from the Final Four once again. He had to sweat it out Friday night, but his team found a way to get to the winner's circle.