Jacksonville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Marcus Paige scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half as North Carolina pulled away for an 87-78 victory over Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
Justin Jackson had 16 points and J.P. Tokoto added 13 with eight assists as the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-11) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years. They will play the winner of Sunday's game between top- seeded Wisconsin and eighth-seeded Oregon next week in the West Region semifinals.
It was an emotional victory for North Carolina's Roy Williams, who matched his mentor, the late Dean Smith, for the second-most NCAA Tournament wins with 65.
"That means a lot to me," said Williams, who earned the 750th win of his coaching career.
Michael Qualls, playing in his 100th game for Arkansas, registered his first career double-double. The junior guard poured in 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the fifth-seeded Razorbacks (27-9), who committed 21 turnovers.
"We had a bunch of unforced turnovers, which is very uncharacteristic of our team," said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.
The Razorbacks had averaged 11.7 turnovers per game.
Arkansas was in the tourney for the first time since 2008. That year it also was eliminated by North Carolina in the second round.
Qualls hit a 3-pointer while being fouled, then made the free throw to complete the four-point play and pull Arkansas within 47-46. A 3 by Portis put the Razorbacks ahead 50-49 with 14:51 remaining.
North Carolina used an 8-2 run to grab a 57-52 lead, but Jabril Durham capped a 7-1 spurt with a 3 and Arkansas led 59-58 with 10:55 left.
The Tar Heels then took control with a 17-4 run. Paige buried two treys and supplied 13 points during the surge that put North Carolina up 75-63 with 5:38 to play.
A scary moment for the Tar Heels occurred when Kennedy Meeks had a Razorback player fall into his left leg while underneath the basket with three minutes remaining. Meeks, whose playing time was limited because of foul trouble, sat out the rest of the game with a sprained left knee.
"Kennedy has a knee sprain. That's all we're saying right now," said Williams. "We think that's all it is, but we'll get some X-rays or MRIs or both when we get back and find out what it is."
Arkansas trimmed its deficit to six with 27 seconds left, but couldn't get any closer.
Tokoto converted his first free throw attempt to make it 83-76. He missed the second, but Nate Britt was able to secure the rebound for North Carolina. Paige was fouled and made both shots at the line to seal the win.
The Razorbacks haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 1996 ... North Carolina carried a 39-36 lead into halftime ... Paige had six rebounds and five steals ... The Tar Heels shot 55 percent in the second half ... Rashad Madden scored 13 points for the Razorbacks.