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COLUMBUS, Ohio — No matter which end of the floor the Washington Huskies were on Sunday, the result was the same.
At one end, Coby White peppered them with perimeter shots and Luke Maye tormented them inside with mid-range jumpers to power a high-octane North Carolina offense.
At the other end, the Huskies’ shooting touch — which deserted them on several occasions this season — once again was off the mark.
As a result, this game — and this season — ended with a resounding thud as No. 1-seeded North Carolina raced out to a double-digit lead and didn’t look back, cruising to an 81-59 victory to halt the ninth-seeded Huskies’ return to the NCAA tournament after an eight-year absence in the Round of 32.
“I thought they got us everywhere ” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “They got us in the high post. They got us on the 3. They got to the foul line. And, unfortunately, I thought we got some good looks, we just had one of those shooting nights. When you play against a team like this, almost everything has to go right. You don’t have a large margin for error.”
After finishing with their most wins since the 2004-05 season, the Huskies (27-9) say goodbye to a quartet of seniors in Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson, David Crisp and Dominic Green, who led UW back to the prominence. It remains to be seen if sophomore star Jaylen Nowell, the Pac-12 player of the year, will return.
If Sunday was his final game with the Huskies, Nowell went down fighting, scoring a team-high 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
And Nahziah Carter provided a glimpse of the what UW fans can expect next season. The sophomore guard finished with 10 points.
Dickerson added 10 points and Crisp had eight, but the Huskies needed so much more against a basketball powerhouse with six NCAA national championships. North Carolina and its roster full of five-star recruits was simply bigger, stronger and faster than Washington.
The early pace favored the Tar Heels, who took advantage of every Husky miscue to ignite their high-octane offense, which ranked third in the nation in scoring at 86.1 points per game.
The Huskies never did slow them down and trailed 41-33 at halftime.
The narrative didn’t change in the final 20 minutes as the Tar Heels continued to connect on outside shots and beat up the Huskies inside.
“The key today was getting the ball to the middle,” said Tar Heels guard Cameron Johnson, who finished with 13 points. “The middle was a soft spot. They were covering the wings and the perimeter pretty well. And once we got it inside, it was basically … an easy jump shot or a dump down. And I think we exploited that a lot more in the second half than we did the first half.”
UNC out-rebounded UW 48-24, including a 15-8 disparity in offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels led 17-4 in second-chance points.
At one point, a missed UNC shot sat tantalizing on the rim, but two UW players failed to retrieve the ball, which landed in Maye’s hands. On the sidelines, Hopkins, his fists clenched and his neck tendons taunt, shouted to center Sam Timmins: “Sammy! Get physical!”
But the Huskies had no answer for Maye, who finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Maye and his teammates were playing with the added incentive of having made an early exit from the tournament last year.
“We talked about it all summer,” said Maye, who collected his 15th double-double of the season. “I feel like it’s just a testament to how hard we worked to get back to the spot. And I think it’s been great to see how many guys have grown this season and really stepped up.”
Washington also never stopped White, who had 17 points and four 3-pointers. Nassir Little added 18 points for North Carolina, which advances to the Sweet 16 to meet Auburn
Before Hameir Wright’s 3-pointer with 13:37 remaining cut UNC’s lead to 54-39, the Huskies were 1-of-6 from the field and committed four turnovers to start the second half.
After the break, Washington converted just 9 of 31 field-goal attempts and was outscored 40-26.
Hopkins emptied his bench in the final minutes, which allowed UW’s four seniors one last ovation from the Nationwide Arena crowd.