San Antonio, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcus Paige scored 19 points, James Michael McAdoo added a pair of clutch free throws and North Carolina escaped with a 79-77 win over Providence in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the score knotted at 77 and the clock winding down, McAdoo rebounded Brice Johnson's missed jumper and drew a foul with less than four seconds to play. McAdoo made the first free throw to put UNC (24-9) in front. The second attempt missed long and caromed back to McAdoo, who grabbed the loose ball and again got fouled.
McAdoo split the second pair, but the ball bounced out-of-bounds off Providence star Bryce Cotton, whose terrific college career came to a disappointing end as the Tar Heels inbounded and bled the remaining half second off the clock.
"I just felt confident," said McAdoo. "I knew my teammates had my back, and I knew they were confident in me as well as the coaching staff."
"I knew I just had to go up there and focus on the rim and just continue to do the routine I've been doing all year. As you can see, I was able to do it."
Despite the loss, Cotton saved his best for last, pouring in a career-high 36 points with eight assists and five rebounds in his final collegiate game. LaDontae Henton added 16 points and 11 boards for Providence (23-12) in defeat.
"It was a great game, you know," said Cotton. "Unfortunately, we just didn't come up with the win."
Johnson and McAdoo had 16 points apiece for the sixth-seeded Tar Heels, who will take on Iowa State in the round of 32 of the East Region.
UNC led 39-36 at halftime and created some separation early in the second half. Four different Tar Heels scored in the paint during a 7-0 run after Cotton opened the period by canning a jumper.
Trailing 46-38, Cotton hit a 3 and finished an acrobatic layup, but North Carolina stayed hot from the floor. McAdoo had a layup in between Cotton's baskets and Kennedy Meeks scored from in close to make it 50-43.
The margin grew to 54-45 on Johnson's putback slam, but Cotton found a way to keep the Friars within striking distance. After Johnson's dunk, Cotton flung himself into a trio of Tar Heels and somehow got a floater to go. He then sprinted down the floor in transition and made it 54-49 with another tough layup.
Later in the frame, Tyler Harris scored five in a row and Cotton spun past a defender and swished a floater to pull Providence within two. Cotton then rebounded J.P. Tokoto's miss and fed Henton for a slam to tie it. The Friars went in front when Cotton banked in a runner at 8:20.
"I definitely left it all out on the floor just like the rest of my teammates," said Cotton.
Providence's largest lead came at 4:36, when Kadeem Batts' three-point play made it 71-64, but Paige hit two timely 3-pointers late. His triple at 1:06 knotted the score at 77.
After Henton's driving layup missed short with 37 seconds left, the Heels took the clock all the way down before McAdoo won it for them.
UNC outscored Providence 46-40 in the paint and 26-13 in second chance points ... Meeks and Tokoto scored 12 and 10 points, respectively ... Harris netted 13 for the Friars ... Johnson blocked four shots.