North Carolina ends Baylor’s reign; son of the ‘Rocket’ rises

After one of the most deliciously discombobulated and outrageously epic games in NCAA tournament history, one that bolstered the tradition of a blue-blooded program and sent the defending national champions home early, RJ Davis thanked his father.

“I mean, shout-out to my dad,” North Carolina’s precocious sophomore guard told reporters in Fort Worth. “He was a big-time scorer in college. They called him Rocket.”

The son of the Rocket proved to be something special, in his own right, on Saturday afternoon. RJ Davis scored a career-high 30 points and passed for six assists as the Tar Heels downed the Baylor Bears, 93-86, in overtime at Dickies Arena.

North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 of the East region in Philadelphia next week despite blowing a 25-point lead in a crazy 10-minute stretch that left the game tied at 80-80 after regulation.

In overtime, Davis sank an extremely difficult driving layup and converted a three-point play with 1:18 remaining. When he sank the free throw, the Tar Heels led by six. The Bears couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

As such, Baylor became the first No. 1 seed in the tournament to fall this weekend, and eighth-seeded North Carolina, criticized earlier this season for being soft, found its tournament mojo. At just the right time.

Davis credited his father, Rob Davis, a former 2,100-point career scorer at Mercy College, for all the guidance, all the rides to the youth tournaments — everything. For helping him along on his journey to the NCAA Sweet 16.

“He just always stayed on me,” said Davis, from White Plains, N.Y. “Even when I had good games or bad games, it was just good criticism, just to get me to the position where I’m at now. Give credit to him just for everything he’s done for me, you know, from workouts to, you know, (AAU), him spazzing on me in car rides. So shout-out to Big Rob.”