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Bryce Cotton outduels Marcus Paige, but UNC gets the win

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer

More: NCAA Tourney News | Bracket Hub | Expert Brackets

What an unfortunate way for Bryce Cotton's career to end.

The Providence guard wanted to come up with a huge performance on a national stage, as he's been constantly underrated throughout his career -- but especially this season. And he was fantastic on Friday night against North Carolina, scoring 36 points.

But his college career came to a close when he fumbled the ball out of bounds with under one second remaining. His turnover meant North Carolina held on for the win, 79-77.

It was hyped up as one of the best individual matchups of the tournament, with Cotton going ahead Marcus Paige -- and it lived up to the hype. Paige had 19 points, including two big 3-pointers late in the second half. Unfortunately for Cotton, Paige had just a little more help, with James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson combining for 32 points and 18 rebounds on the interior.

McAdoo's free throws in the final seconds gave the Tar Heels the victory.

It wasn't the most memorable way for Cotton to go out, but he certainly made a statement. He single-handedly kept Providence within striking distance for most of the game, hitting big shot after big shot and now allowing North Carolina to get separation. While most of the sport's casual fans haven't given him the proper due, Cotton has been doing this all season. He leads the nation in minutes played, while also carrying an enormous load in the Friars' offense. Cotton had 23 points in the Big East championship game, helping get Providence into the field of 68. And he's going to end the season averaging more than 21 points and nearly six assists.

It probably wasn't the way Cotton wanted to end his Providence career, but it certainly opened up some eyes.

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