|After sloppy NCAA start, No. 1 UNC takes on Washington|
North Carolina had some strange feelings after winning a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament with an uneven performance.
Even so, the Tar Heels were happy to move on.
So was Washington, and the teams will meet in the second round Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
North Carolina (28-6) is the top seed in the Midwest Region, so early struggles against 16th-seeded Iona were somewhat surprising.
However, freshman Nassir Little poured in 19 points in his first NCAA Tournament game, and that was part of the reason the Tar Heels pulled away for an 88-73 victory.
"Once we picked it up defensively, we got easy buckets in transition," Little said. "Guys were being more aggressive taking it to the basket, putting pressure on their guys, getting people in foul trouble, and that's how we were able to get away."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams saw a difference in the way his team approached the second half.
"Probably the thing I despise more than anything in basketball or in life is somebody trying to be cool," Williams said. "And I thought in the first half we didn't have the passion. I don't think that they thought it was going to be easy. I just don't think we had the passion to play."
North Carolina has lost only two of 18 games since mid-January. This phase of the postseason has its own challenges, Williams said.
"Every tournament's different," he said. "You build your momentum once you get in the tournament."
One area that Williams wants to avoid is seeing his team play tight because it carries a No. 1 regional seed.
"It's part of the game," he said, "and I understand that and told them that. But if you're a tough competitor and you invest yourself into the game, you're not just worried about the score; you want to be concerned about how you're playing."
In that regard, ninth-seeded Washington (27-8) could be feeling loose after recovering from a loss to Oregon in the Pac-10 tournament final last weekend.
Washington defeated eighth-seeded Utah State 78-61 in the first round Friday night. That gave second-year coach Mike Hopkins his first NCAA Tournament victory.
"Just trying to give them everything I know and try to learn more to give them more," Hopkins said of his team. "And that's what it's all about. That's what makes college basketball coaching so special. All these moments, and then dreams do come true."
Hopkins is a former Syracuse player and assistant coach who has had plenty of postseason experiences.
"So this elevates where we want to be," Hopkins said of having some tournament success. "We didn't come here to get in the NCAA Tournament. The greatest thing that makes this great tournament is you have a chance to win a national championship. It doesn't matter if you're a 16. Doesn't matter if you're a 15. Doesn't matter if you're a 14. You have a chance to win a national championship."
The North Carolina-Washington winner will advance to the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo., next Friday to meet the winner of the Saturday game between fifth-seeded Auburn and fourth-seeded Kansas.
--Field Level Media