JACKSONVILLE, Fla, - Both Arkansas and North Carolina barely got by on Thursday, but that's all it takes in the NCAA Tournament to survive an advance.
The Razorbacks (27-8) and Tar Heels (25-11) will meet Saturday night at 7:50 p.m. CST in the NCAA Tournament's round of 32.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams didn't try to hide his happiness after downing Harvard 67-65 despite blowing a 16-point lead with 16 minutes to go.
"It's the luckiest I've ever felt after a basketball game in my entire life," Williams said. "In saying that, I'm thrilled that we're still here and we're still playing.
"I feel like I've won the lottery because Tommy Amaker did a much better job with his team than I did with mine," Williams added. "We were extremely lucky. They are driving me wacko."
North Carolina lost 6 of its last 10 games in the regular season, but did get to the finals of the ACC Tournament before falling to Notre Dame when the Irish went on a 24-2 run in the second half.
Justin Jackson had 14 points - including his team's last four - and Marcus Paige 10 to lead the Tar Heels.
Brice Johnson put his team's escape in perspective.
"We could have a learning experience sitting at home," Johnson said, "We could be on our way home right now, but we're not. We just had to learn from it and play a lot better than we did. That wasn't the Carolina team that's been playing the last week or so."
Harvard scored 29 points off 17 North Carolina turnovers - something that is obviously something that Arkansas has hung its had on in Razorback head coach Mike Anderson's tenure.
"We kind of got away from it and let our guard down for a second," Johnson said. "They really exposed us when we did."
• • •
Arkansas' players are supposed to celebrate wins until midnight and then start looking ahead to the next game.
But on Thurday, the Razorbacks (27-8) were still finishing up their 56-53 win over Wofford when the clock struck midnight in Jacksonville.
They did get a chance to address Saturday's game with North Carolina around 12:30 a.m.
"I feel like it is a great opportunity for us to be able to showcase the way we play again on a national stage and in the NCAA Tournament against a good basketball program," Razorback senior Alandise Harris said. "It's just another challenge and we'll be ready for the challenge."
Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis knows his team will have to play better than it did on Thursday.
"I think it is big for us to just come out ready to play Saturday," Portis said. "Like if our team comes out the way we did today, it could get ugly, but hopefully our team comes ready to play and can live with the results."
• • •
Arkansas sophomore Manaule Watkins could sense his team - who had no one that had every played in an NCAA Tournament before Thursday - had some jitters at the start of Thursday's game.
"It's fun and I was nervous at first, but after sweat started dripping down I was good," Watkins said. "I mean it is what we do. It's still basketball. We practice every day and play it every day and that's the way you have to look at it - it's the game we love."
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams gives instructions to his team during its 67-65 win over Harvard on Thursday.
Arkansas, North Carolina Survive And Advance
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