NEWARK, N.J. — Catch 'em if you can.
After repeated early, deep deficits this postseason, North Carolina flipped the script Friday night, dismantling Marquette 81-63 in an East Regional semifinal that was over before the half.
North Carolina got off to its customary slow start, then seized control to move within a game of reaching the Final Four for the third time in four years.
"I looked up at the clock and it was 10-8 their favor, and the next time I looked at the clock is when I went off at halftime and it was 40-15," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I knew we were doing very well to say the least."
Those 15 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by North Carolina in a half in 144 NCAA tournament games, and the Marquette's 20 percent shooting from the field came on 6-of-30 shooting that was the second lowest by an opponent in an NCAA tournament game.
Just a year after missing the NCAA party, the kids from Chapel Hill are ready to steal the show.
Tyler Zeller had 27 points and 15 rebounds, while John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the second-seeded Tar Heels in the rout at the Prudential Center. Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds.
North Carolina (29-7) will face Kentucky or top-seed Ohio State on Sunday for a spot in Houston.
"It means a great deal to all of us," Zeller said. "We've been working for this all year and finally put ourselves in a situation and we have to go out and play Sunday."
The Tar Heels looked scary against Marquette (22-15).
Everyone knew they could run up and down the court with the best in college basketball. Friday's dominating defensive performance was an eye-opener.
"I still think we can play better,' Carolina guard Dexter Strickland said. "We haven't played to our potential."
Marquette's miserable game meant the Big East's contingent of 11 teams has dipped to one — Connecticut.
"We just couldn't do anything right in the first half, and that's just not the way we play," said Davante Gardner who led the Golden Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds. "It was uncharacteristic of us, and actually, it was pretty embarrassing."
Marquette had only two bad games down the stretch, and both came in this building. Three weeks ago, they were blown out by a sub .500 Seton Hall team in a game that seemingly put the Golden Eagles out of the NCAA tournament.
Marquette, however, played well enough in the Big East Conference tournament to make the show then knocked off Xavier and fourth-seeded Syracuse.
Going against North Carolina was a mismatch.
"We had zero assists at halftime, and we never do that," said Jimmy Butler, who had 14 points in his final game. "I had no idea what was going on. We had to be able to adjust and get some baskets, but we let them get away with doing whatever they wanted to do. The toughest team usually wins, and we definitely were not the tougher team."
The Tar Heels played a physical game against their tough-minded opponent for the opening eight minutes and then took control.
Trailing 10-8 with 12:43 to go, North Carolina went on a 19-0 run, forcing Marquette to miss 14 straight shots. The game was just about over at that point.
Virginia Commonwealth 72, Florida State 71, OT
At San Antonio, Bradford Burgess made a layup off an inbounds pass with 7.1 seconds left and Rob Brandenburg blocked a shot at the buzzer, giving Virginia Commonwealth a victory over Florida State in overtime in a Southwest Region semifinal.
In the first NCAA tournament game between teams seeded 10 and 11, the lower seeded Rams blew a nine-point lead by scoring only three points in the final 7:37 of regulation. They never trailed by more than four all night, but found themselves down 71-70 when Burgess scored the kind of basket that will live in NCAA tournament lore.
On an inbounds play with 7.9 seconds left, Joey Rodriguez threw a nifty bounce pass between two Florida State defenders. Burgess caught it in the lane and went up before the defenders could recover. He banked it in, just to be safe.
On Florida State's final possession, Derwin Kitchen drove the baseline and passed it outside. The shot may have been too late, but Brandenburg avoided any controversy by swatting it, sending the Rams (27-11) into the final eight for the first time.
UNC dominant in Sweet 16 win
NEWARK, N.J. — Catch 'em if you can.