EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A team without a nickname, Eastern Michigan was suited to be called Cinderella. But the North Carolina Tar Heels saw to it last night that the glass slipper worn by the surprise team in the round of 16 would step no further.
Top-seeded North Carolina broke open a tight game by scorin15 straight points midway through the second half for a 93-67 win that advances the Tar Heels (28-5) to tomorrow's East Regional final.
The loss was the worst of the season for Eastern Michigan (26-7and ended the team's 11-game winning streak.
North Carolina's Pete Chilcutt and Hubert Davis scored 18 pointeach to lead five North Carolina players in double figures. Eastern Michigan forward Carl Thomas -- who, with twin brother, Charles, starts -- scored a career high 27 points (including five of 10 three-pointers), but a shot midway through the second half turned the tide of the game.
Thomas' shot was an inadvertent elbow that connected with thnose of North Carolina's Eric Montross with 12 minutes, 40 seconds left and the Tar Heels leading, 61-57. Fired-up North Carolina went on a 15-0 run over the next 5:34 to take a 76-57 lead. The Tar Heels would lead by as many as 27.
"It seemed to fire [Montross] up, and some guys came out moraggressive afterward," Chilcutt said of the elbow. "It's something we should have done ourselves, but some guys came out more aggressive."
That aggressiveness carried over to the defensive end, where the Tar Heels did a good job cutting off the cross-court passes that resulted in the easy jumpers by Thomas. His last field goal came on a three-pointer with 12:45 left, his only points after that coming on two free throws.
"We felt pretty good, and we felt we were within striking range,Thomas said. "But for that one stretch we took some bad shots, and every time they touched the ball they scored. That really hurt us."
What also hurt was keeping Eastern Michigan point guarLorenzo Neely off the scoreboard. Neely averaged 17.5 points a game in tournament wins over Mississippi State and Penn State but was held scoreless on four field-goal attempts against North Carolina.
"They came after Lorenzo early, and that was a big key," EasterMichigan coach Ben Braun said. "They were concerned about all the things he could do, and they took that away."
Depth also played a role, with Tar Heels coach Dean Smitlooking to his bench for the right combination. While Montross was coming off the bench to score 17 points in 18 minutes and other reserves were contributing in different ways, only one Eastern Michigan reserve played more than seven minutes.
"I think they looked tired the last five or six minutes," Smith said of the Eastern Michigan starters, each of whom logged more than 30 minutes.
Despite the win, Smith was far from happy with his team'performance. The Tar Heels were sluggish on defense in the first half as Eastern Michigan ran its offense to perfection and shot 58.6 percent in the first 20 minutes (North Carolina's opponents had shot 39 percent in its first two tournament wins).
"I was extremely disappointed I didn't have them betteprepared," Smith said."