[NORTH CAROLINA-BROWN 2-0] Kirk Urso set up fellow sophomores Billy Schuler and Alex Dixon to give No. 5 seed North Carolina a 2-0 win over Brown in second-round action of the NCAA Men's Tournament Sunday at Fetzer Field.
Urso set up a Schuler header on a free kick in the 20th minute and fed Dixon near midfield in the 89th.
Senior goalkeeper Brooks Haggerty went the distance in net for his eighth shutout and Carolina's 10th in 19 outings. He made two saves, and UNC's smothering defense held Brown (11-3-5) without a shot over the first 57 minutes and to just five shots on the afternoon.
"It was a tough game to play - very physical," said UNC head coach Elmar Bolowich, who improved to 18-12-0 in postseason action with Sunday's victory. "It was difficult to concentrate on the things we were doing and wanted to do very well, so I am really pleased and proud of the effort our team put in, just playing the game we wanted to play and not getting off track."
With the victory, Carolina advances to meet Indiana, a 1-0 winner over No. 12 seed Butler, in the tourney's third round at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29 in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels grabbed an early lead with their first quality chance in the 20th minute. After Michael Farfan was fouled, Urso send the ensuing 25-yard free kick from the left side into the box to Schuler, who guided a header from the center of the six-yard mark past Brown goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand for a 1-0 advantage.
"We've been working a lot in practice and spending extra time on our re-starts and free kicks," said Schuler, who has a team-best 22 points. "We have all our runs down and Kirk [Urso] played it to the right spot, right in the middle. Dustin (McCarty) got in there before me and took out the defender, and I was able to make contact and get it in there."
The goal was Schuler's team-best ninth of the season, and he now has 12 points in the last eight games. Schuler has two goals, both game-winners, in six career NCAA Tournament starts.
Brown finally got a shot off in the 58th minute - a Jay Hayward free kick - but Haggerty was there to deny the scoring chance. The Tar Heels pressured from there, putting quality chances on frame in the 59th and 63rd minutes. Grandstrand made one-on-one saves to stop Schuler and Dixon to preserve the 1-0 deficit for the time being.
The Bears pressed late for the equalizer, but the Tar Heel defense preserved the clean sheet. Haggerty scooped up a dangerous through ball with five minutes to play, and Dylan Remick followed with a shot off the crossbar 89th minute.
Carolina was quick on the counter attack, as Urso fed Dixon near midfield, and the speedy forward dribbled into the box and beat Grandstrand to the right with an eight-yard shot for the 2-0 final margin and his sixth goal of the season.
The Tar Heels finished with an 11-5 edge in shots and both teams managed four corner kicks. Grandstrand posted five saves for the Bears.
"Brown was very, very competitive. We expected that," said Bolowich. "There's a reason these guys are here, it's the second round of the playoffs, so at this stage you don't have easy games anymore. So you just have to find a way to survive, advance, and move on and that's what we did today."
"I thought it was a pretty hard fought game, they [UNC] are a tough team," said Brown head coach Mike Noonan. "They haven't been outshot all year. We got the momentum back, had a shot at a penalty and could have equalized it there, but it went the other way. Then a couple of other balls went the other way, and that's just the game of soccer."