NEWARK, N.J. — North Carolina is back and put the whole package — offense, defense and toughness — on display while dismantling Marquette.
Just a year after missing the NCAA party, the kids from Chapel Hill stole the show at their East Regional semifinal.
Tyler Zeller had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and North Carolina took control early for a change, rolling to an 81-63 victory on Friday night at the Prudential Center.
John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds as the second-seeded Tar Heels (29-7) moved to within a game of reaching the Final Four for the third time in four years.
North Carolina will face Kentucky or top-seed Ohio State on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four in Houston.
Wow might have been the best word to describe the effort by a team that doesn't start or really play a senior.
The Tar Heels limited No. 11 seed Marquette (22-15) to 15 first-half points while opening a 25-point lead.
The 15 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by North Carolina in a half in 144 NCAA tournament games, and the Golden Eagles' 20 percent shooting from the field came on 6 of 30 shooting.
Davante Gardner led the Golden Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams used all but two of his timeouts in the opening half to try to turn things around to no effect. Now, speculation will turn to whether Williams will stay at Marquette or pursue another job, perhaps at Oklahoma, where he is a possible candidate for the Sooners' vacancy.
Unlike the ACC tournament when they had to rally from double-digit deficits, the Tar Heels played a physical game against their tough-minded Big East Conference 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.