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.