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.”

North Carolina will challenge top-seeded Baylor in Fort Worth

The top-seeded Baylor Bears and the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels will open the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament on Saturday at 11:10 a.m. when they meet in an East Region game in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena.

On Thursday, Baylor, the defending national champions, advanced with an easy 85-49 victory over Norfolk State (Va.), while North Carolina also dominated, taking out ninth-seeded Marquette, 95-63.

First-year Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis suggested on Friday that just because the Bears have lost center Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to an injury, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are vulnerable on the inside, an area where North Carolina excels with big man Armondo Bacot.

“Baylor is the defending national champions and the No. 1 seed because they have more than one guy,” Davis told reporters in Fort Worth. “They’re an outstanding team. And one of the areas that they are terrific at is rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor.

“It’s something that we have talked about, you know, yesterday, today, in terms of trying to limit Baylor to one shot every possession. Because we know that a huge part of their offense is getting second-chance opportunities,” Davis said.

Davis said the same is true for the Tar Heels in terms of how they stress the need to hit the offensive boards.

“I always say, ‘Let’s get shots, let’s get good shots,’ ” he said. “But if we get good shots, we’re either going to make them. And if we miss, because of our pursuit of the offensive glass, we’re going to get second-chance opportunities.

“So it’s a great matchup of two teams that — talented teams that like to get out in transition, they like to get second-chance opportunities, that get after it on the defensive end.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew told reporters that injured guard LJ Cryer, who also sat out the opener, will not play against North Carolina.

“I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I can’t,” he said.


The NCAA posts transcripts of all press conferences for credentialed media. The JB Replay gained access to the transcripts Friday afternoon.

Charting the top seeds

After Friday’s games, the top four seeds in each region produced a 15-1 record against lower seeds in the Round of 64. The only one to lose was East Region No. 2 seed Kentucky, which lost to Saint Peter’s Thursday night.

In the South Region, with the games cycling though San Antonio next week, top-seeded Arizona, No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Tennessee all won in blowouts. Fourth-seeded Illinois was taken to the wire before downing Chattanooga, 54-53, Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Five from Texas stay alive

Five of the seven teams from the state of Texas that made the 68-team tournament field are still alive going into the Round of 32. After Baylor won easily on Thursday, while Texas Tech, Houston, Texas and TCU all won on Friday to advance.

Texas Tech, Houston and Texas all hit double-digits in 3-pointers made on Friday. The Red Raiders had 12 and the Cougars and the Longhorns both made 10. Texas Tech hit 12 of 20 from beyond the arc in a 97-62 victory over Montana State in the West Region.

In the South Region, fifth-seeded Houston opened the tournament in Pittsburgh and nailed nine from long distance in the first half alone. The Cougars held off the UAB Blazers, 82-68, on Friday night to set up a Sunday game against Illinois.

Also in the South, the ninth-seeded TCU Horned Frogs blew out the Seton Hall Pirates, 69-42. With the victory, TCU earned a Round of 32 game Sunday in San Diego against Arizona.

Sixth-seeded Texas won its first tournament game since 2014 with an 81-73 East Region victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Longhorns will also play next on Sunday, drawing the third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was eliminated from the tournament on Tuesday. The Islanders lost to the Texas Southern Tigers.

The Tigers advanced to play Kansas on Thursday. The Jayhawks won, 83-56.

North Carolina routs top-ranked Duke, 88-72

Forward Luke Maye produced 30 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday night as eighth-ranked North Carolina won decisively on the road against an old rival, toppling the No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils, 88-72.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson also enjoyed a big game with 26 points and seven rebounds at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke played most of the night without star freshman Zion Williamson, who fell and suffered a knee injury only 36 seconds into the action. He did not return.

Subsequently, the Tar Heels ran solid halfcourt offensive sets and rolled behind Maye and Cam Johnson to a 10-point lead at halftime.

North Carolina outscored Duke 17-5 in the first four minutes of the second half to take a 22-point lead.

Johnson capped the streak when he hit a layup with 15:58 remaining to make it 59-37.

Duke closed to within 13 points with 2:44 remaining, when Cam Reddish hit a three.

But the Tar Heels steadied themselves and held on, breaking the Blue Devils’ nine-game winning streak.


North Carolina 21-5, 11-2
Duke 23-3, 11-2


Williamson suffered the injury on his first touch of the game. On the wing, he drove into the key and went down when the shoe on his left foot came apart. Replay showed him clutching the back of his right leg above the knee.

Texas upsets seventh-ranked North Carolina, 92-89

Guard Kerwin Roach soared for slams. He glided inside for floaters. He sank rainbow jumpers.

He did a little bit of everything in scoring a career-high 32 points as the unranked Texas Longhorns stunned No. 7 North Carolina, 92-89, Thursday night in Las Vegas.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Longhorn nation,” Roach told the FoxSports1 television audience. “This is for ya’ll.”

In defeating one of the blue-blood programs in college basketball, the Longhorns offset a team rebounding disadvantage (43-32) with season-high shooting of 52.5 percent from the field.

Texas also forced 17 North Carolina turnovers and turned them into 31 points.

Several players had key roles, including Matt Coleman III, Dylan Osetkowski and Jaxson Hayes, but Roach served as the maestro in orchestrating the Longhorns’ biggest victory of the season.

Roach filled up the boxscore with seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

Furthermore, he shot 12 of 15 from the field to meet the challenge of negating a standout performance by North Carolina freshman guard Coby White, who scored 33.

North Carolina charged to a 17-4 lead, but Texas would not back down.

“We just stayed resilient,” Roach said on the FS1 broadcast. “We stayed within each other. We just played our game, and it came to us. We didn’t force anything. We played great defense and we played great offense.”

As a result, the Longhorns rallied to take a one-point lead at halftime and then extended it to 11 points in the second half.

The Tar Heels rallied to within two twice down the stretch, the last time when Nassir Little hit a three-pointer with four seconds left.

On the next possession, Longhorns guard Jase Febres was fouled and hit one of two free throws to account for the final score.

Texas deflected the ensuing inbounds pass on the last play, denying North Carolina a shot as the clocked ticked to 0:00.


Texas 5-0
North Carolina 5-1

Coming up

Texas vs. Michigan State, at Las Vegas, 5:30 p.m.


“(Roach) gave us everything he had tonight. At the four-minute media (timeout) I turned to our strength coach and said, ‘I hope he’s got four minutes left.’ Because he did look winded. But he’s really fought, battled, got himself in unbelievable shape. Obviously he was everything for us in terms of creating offense.” — Texas coach Shaka Smart. (Interview with FS1)


In the past 15 seasons under coach Roy Williams, North Carolina has won three national titles. The Tar Heels’ last championship came in 2017. They were knocked out in the round of 32 last year by Texas A&M. In three seasons under Smart, Texas has reached the NCAA tournament twice but hasn’t won an NCAA game. The Longhorns, despite what was then a career-best 26 points from Roach, were ousted by Nevada in the first round last year.

Going ‘bananas’ for Westburg at the College World Series

The legend of the “Banana Man” has grown into a full-fledged phenomenon at the College World Series.

Jordan Westburg, a Mississippi State freshman from New Braunfels High School, smashed a grand slam Tuesday morning in the second inning of a winners’ bracket game against North Carolina.

As the player credited with inspiring a banana-related media buzz at the tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, he also totaled three hits and tied a CWS record with seven RBI in the Bulldogs’ 12-2 victory over the Tar Heels.

“Obviously a day he and his family will remember forever,” Bulldogs coach Gary Henderson told Mike Lopresti, writing for

In the wake of the rout, Mississippi State (2-0 in the tournament) moved to within one win of the championship round.

North Carolina (1-1) and Oregon State (1-1) will play Wednesday to stay alive in Bracket 1 of the CWS, with the winner moving on to meet Mississippi State on Friday.

On Tuesday morning, Westburg was in the Mississippi State lineup as a designated hitter, batting ninth. For the season, he had played in only 39 of his team’s 65 games.

A modest .243 hitter, he was coming off an 0-for-3 performance in the Bulldogs’ CWS opener, a 1-0 victory over the Washington Huskies on Saturday.

But in the top of the second inning against the Tar Heels, Westburg delivered for his team.

With two outs and facing a 1-2 count, he stepped into a hanging breaking pitch from Tar Heels’ righthander Austin Bergner and drilled it into the left field grandstands for the 49th grand slam in CWS history.

Westburg, in a postgame interview with ESPN, called it “the greatest feeling ever.”

“That’s what every ball player strives to accomplish and dreams about,” he said. “Just being in that spot and knowing that my teammates had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself, I think that’s what helped me a little bit.”

Rounding the bases for only his second home run of the season, the euphoria of the moment kicked in.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said. “It was just pure joy. In the second inning, to be able to give my team a lead. They scored first. It was huge. Just knowing that I could help my team that way was awesome.”

On social media, Westburg has been called “The Banana Man,” a reference to a moment of levity during the NCAA playoffs earlier this month.

During a June 3 NCAA tournament game at Tallahassee, Florida, Westburg ate a banana in the dugout as a snack.

Afterward, he reportedly picked up another banana and proceeded to start goofing around, holding it to his ear as if he were on the phone.

Also, according to a story in the Omaha World Herald, he pretended it was a radar gun.

The moment was captured on ESPN, which prompted the start of more and more social media posts.

When Westburg hit his grand slam Tuesday, television cameras captured the image of two fans dressed as bananas, celebrating with their fists in the air.

Fans were still going bananas in an eighth-run eighth inning when Westburg picked up two hits.

He singled and scored on one at bat, and then slapped a three-run double on the other.

After the game, ESPN went directly to an interview on the field with Westburg, who was holding his “lucky banana” at his side as he discussed his historic day and the apparent magic of the yellow fruit.

“It’s the best banana ever,” he said. “I’m just thankful I had a good day. So, yeah, this is definitely the best banana ever.”

Growing up in New Braunfels

Westburg played at New Braunfels High School under coach Bobby Alford.

He was a Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association (THSBCSA) first team All-State at shortstop in both 2016 and 2017.

Last season, Westburg also was the District 27-6A Most Valuable Player after hitting .457 for the Unicorns. He hit .406 as a junior in 2016.

Westburg played baseball, football and basketball at New Braunfels.

At Mississippi State, he started his college career in a program that was rocked with controversy in February with the resignation of coach Andy Cannizaro.

Officials responded by promoting Henderson from an assistant’s role into the head coaching job on an interim basis.

On the road to Omaha

Mississippi State steadied itself under Henderson, finished tied for third in the SEC West and gained momentum with a sweep of No. 1 Florida at the end of the regular season.

In its NCAA playoff opener, the Bulldogs were blown out, falling 20-10 to Oklahoma at Tallahassee, Florida.

Later, they won four elimination games in a row to advance.

At the Super Regional, they won two of three on the road at Vanderbilt to make it to Omaha.

“I think we just don’t have any give up in ourselves” Westburg said. “I think this whole team is just fighting. No matter what the score is. No matter what the situation is.

“We just play like some Bulldogs, honestly. We’re just going to keep trying to accomplish that every game.”

CWS Bracket 1 schedule


North Carolina vs. Oregon State, 2 p.m., elimination game


Mississippi State vs. North Carolina/Oregon State, 2 p.m.