RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -North Carolina put on a show for its home-state fans in its first two NCAA tournament games. Now the overall No. 1 seed is off and running to the round of 16, where another comfortable setting awaits.
Wayne Ellington scored 20 points and the Tar Heels raced to a double-digit lead in the first 5 minutes of a 108-77 second-round win over Arkansas on Sunday, sending North Carolina to Charlotte for the East Regional semifinals.
Ty Lawson had 19 points and seven assists for the Tar Heels (34-2), who followed their first-round rout of Mount St. Mary’s with another impressive offensive display. North Carolina will face fourth-seeded Washington State on Thursday night in the same arena where they won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament last weekend.
The Tar Heels scored the first nine points, led 51-26 at halftime and shot 68 percent for the game. They became the first team to score 100 points in their first two NCAA games since Loyola Marymount did it against New Mexico State and Michigan in 1990.
The ninth-seeded Razorbacks (23-12), which upset Vanderbilt and Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament in Atlanta last week, never got closer than 21 points after the break.
It marked only the third time in the past 25 years that the Tar Heels won both of their first two NCAA games by 20 or more points. The only other teams to do it – 1993 and 2005 – went on to win the national championship. The Tar Heels also tied the school’s single-season record for victories, matching the ’93 team and the 1998 squad that reached the Final Four in San Antonio.
The Tar Heels looked every bit like the tournament’s top overall seed in its first two games at the RBC Center, located about a half-hour from the Chapel Hill campus and home to rival North Carolina State. Playing in front of a blue-clad crowd, North Carolina made Arkansas look as helpless as the 16th-seeded Mountaineers did in Friday night’s 113-74 win.
Making the win even more impressive was that the Tar Heels didn’t need a big day from All-American Tyler Hansbrough to do it. He finished with 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting while also going 5-for-7 from the line, which allowed him to surpass Duke’s Christian Laettner for the most made free throws in a career for an ACC player.
Deon Thompson finished with 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting for North Carolina, and frontcourt mate Alex Stepheson had 10 on 5-for-5 shooting. And by the end, coach Roy Williams was able to empty his bench and give his regulars plenty of time to cheer from the sideline again.
The Razorbacks looked nothing like the team that beat Indiana 86-72 in the first round to secure the program’s first NCAA win since 1999. Sonny Weems had a career-high 31 points on 12-for-14 shooting in that game, but finished with 19 on 8-for-20 shooting against the Tar Heels.