NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Marquette Tribune.
NEWARK, N.J.--North Carolina closed the first half on a 32-5 run and overpowered a much smaller Marquette team in its 81-63 win Friday night in Newark.
Forward Tyler Zeller led the way for the Elite 8-bound Tar Heels, scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, while sophomore John Henson added 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the win.
Early on it looked like the Golden Eagles would be gearing up for another slug fest like they had done in the prior two rounds, playing solid defense finding scoring wherever they could.
A Jae Crowder offensive rebound and putback gave Marquette a 10-8 lead with 12:42 to go in the half to give the Golden Eagles their first lead.
It was also their last.
Roy Williams' crew would go on to score the next 19 points and force Marquette into 14 straight misses, pressuring the Golden Eagles at all times to the point where they couldn't even run offensive sets.
Marquette was held scoreless for almost nine minutes until Jimmy Butler connected on a jump shot with 3:54 remaining, but by then the lead had been stretched to 15, and the Tar Heels went into intermission up 40-15.
The half Buzz Williams described as "completely uncharacteristic" saw Marquette turn the ball over 12 times and fail to record an assist on just six made field goals.
"We did a great job of forcing them out of their offense and then just not letting them ever take a comfortable shot," Zeller said. "If we can play like we did in the first half, every game, we'll be all right."
For as good as the Tar Heels were defensively, the No. 1 scoring team in the NCAA Tournament also picked things up on the offensive end to close the half.
After making just 6-of-21 shots to open the game, the Tar Heels used Marquette's ineptitude offensively to set the pace of the game, scoring at will in the paint (26 points) and on second chances (16) to complement their 13 offensive rebounds.
Zeller led the way in that first half, double-doubling with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Harrison Barnes was equally as good at both ends of the court, scoring 8 points and blocking two shots, while holding Marquette senior Jimmy Butler to just four points.
"I just try to do the little things," Barnes said. "I try to play really good defense, try to rebound and try to provide energy for my team even though I wasn't able to score early."
Marquette would up shooting 20 percent as a team in the first half. Its leading scorer was Darius Johnson-Odom, who had 5 points on 1-of-7 shooting.
"It was very frustrating," Johnson-Odom said. "They did a great job of taking away our wings and what we were doing in transition. Their inside presence of Zeller and Henson, they play great together."
The second half featured much of the same, with North Carolina scoring 10 of the first 13 points on an array of fast breaks and dunks inside, leading by as many as 32 in the game.
Marquette showed signs of life on multiple occasions late, putting together runs of 9-2, 14-5, and 6-0, but the size and power from North Carolina's frontcourt was too much to handle, as the Tar Heels had an answer for every Marquette run.
The closest the Golden Eagles got in the second half was on a Junior Cadougan layup that cut the lead to 71-57 with 3:57 to go, but that was followed by a 7-0 North Carolina run that closed the door on any chance Marquette had of pulling off a miracle.
All was not lost for Marquette fans who stuck around to watch until the end, as senior walk-on Rob Frozena drained a three-pointer in the left corner with 9 seconds to go to finish out his Marquette career.
"That was the perfect ending to my career," Frozena said. "You have no idea. This whole four-year experience has been a childhood dream and that was just the cherry on top right there."