TUCSON, Ariz. — Kennedy Todd-Williams scored 19 points, Deja Kelly added 15 and the Tar Heels overwhelmed Arizona 63-45 Monday night to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight years.
Fifth-seeded UNC (25-6) smothered Arizona from the start, using a 15-0 run to lead by nine at halftime, then stretched it 20 with a dominating third quarter. Coach Courtney Banghart’s squad held Arizona (22-7) to 29% shooting, including 7 from 27 from 3, to earn a spot in the Greensboro Region semifinals Friday against No. 1 overall seed South Carolina.
No. 4 Arizona had a disjointed start for the second straight NCAA Tournament game at McKale Center. Unlike their comeback against UNLV, the Wildcats had no answer for the Tar Heels.
Arizona went through long scoring droughts in each half and had nothing left to mount a comeback, following up last year’s run to the national title game with a second-round dud.
Sam Thomas led Arizona with 15 points.
The Wildcats were jittery early against UNLV in their first home NCAA Tournament game since 1998 and allowed the Lady Rebels to hang around before finally pulling away with a dominating fourth quarter.
Arizona had a similar start against North Carolina. This time, it kept going.
Disjointed and tentative against North Carolina’s amoebic zone, the Wildcats shot 3 of 14, had four turnovers and didn’t score over the final 5:19 of the first quarter.
Arizona’s offensive struggles continued, adding seven more missed shots until Thomas hit a 3-pointer with 3:52 left in the second quarter. UNC took advantage of the Arizona clanging, scoring the first nine points of the quarter to stretch a five-point lead to 23-9.
The Tar Heels held the Wildcats to 6-of-26 shooting and 4 of 16 from 3 in the first half to lead 28-17.
Arizona and its crowd came out of halftime with a refreshed energy. The Tar Heels weathered the early burst — the Wildcats cut the lead to seven — and pushed back. North Carolina closed the first half on a 15-2 run, capped by Kelly’s three-point play, to stretch the lead to 47-27.
Arizona had a scoreless drought of more than five minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters, all but ending its hopes of consecutive trips to the Sweet 16.