North Carolina heads to the Sunshine State for the second time this month as the Tar Heels take their three-game ACC winning streak to Tallahassee to face Florida State. UNC won by two at Miami on Jan. 5.
Carolina has won three straight by a total of nine points, following a pair of ACC losses by five points or fewer. The last time the Tar Heels played in a game settled by double-digits was a win over Kentucky on Dec. 19. Carolina has had just two such games in its last 10.
The Heels will be challenged by Florida State’s pressure defense.
"They're extremely athletic and talented, but they do a great job of pressuring you,” coach Roy Williams said. “So I think we always think about how, not just gifted they are, but how hard they work defensively. I think that we always wonder if we're ever going to score a basket against them."
Carolina has struggled with turnovers this season, ranking No. 267 in the country in turnover rate, although the Heels have had two relatively good performances with ball security in the last three outings—against Notre Dame and Syracuse.
FSU has played just once in the last 18 days, due to COVID testing and tracking issues. In their one 2021 game, the Noles blew out NC State, 105-73, shooting 70.7 percent. Eleven different Seminoles scored in the game.
"If they shoot 70 percent (Saturday), they're gonna beat us to death, too,” Williams said. “They were phenomenal. … It was an impressive show. Their depth is something that Leonard (Hamilton) always plays. Like I tried to do, he does a better job of it. But they've always had depth, last year they won the regular season. Their game against North Carolina State was about as impressive as any team I've seen in the ACC."
Guard Anthony Harris, out since December 2019 with a knee injury, is close to a return. He went through pregame warmups and dressed against Syracuse, although Williams wasn’t sure when Harris would return to the lineup. Big man Sterling Manley has also been practicing, although he still hasn’t dressed for a game.
Today's starters: Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Leaky Black, Caleb Love, Kerwin Walton
UNC getting outrebounded early. Heels have forced three turnovers but are 2-of-7 from the field and trail at the under 16, 7-4
Carolina on a 7-0 run to pull in front, 12-10.
After hitting their first two threes, FSU is 0 for its last 3 with two air balls. UNC leads at the under 12, 14-12.
Puff Johnson triggers an FSU break with a turnover, also misses a three and fouls in his two minutes in the game. Noles pull back in front, although a three-point play by Bacot keeps it tight
Size of FSU may be intimidating the Heels. A couple of quick three attempts after the Noles block a floater. FSU lead is now seven and Heels look out of synch
UNC fumbles a rebound out of bounds and we hit the under 8. FSU up 27-19
UNC lucky to be this close. FSU is hitting 60 percent, 50 percent from three. UNC hitting 33.3 percent, 1-of-7 from three.
Platek fouls on a three-pointer and Walker's free throws up FSU up 11. 20-5 run.
Back-to-back threes by Davis and Walton give Carolina some life. Lead was down to five before Heels give up another open three.
UNC very confused on that possession. Brooks dribbling sideways in traffic beyond the arc, then Walton takes an extremely long contested three attempt
Fast break layup and a three pointer cuts the lead to three. Time out FSU. That'll also be the under four. 35-32 Noles.
Brooks with a nice pass for the three before the time out, just had another good pass to Bacot coming down the middle to cut the lead to one.
Bacot rebounds a Platek miss and kicks to Love for three. UNC on top 37-35.
Three straight Carolina turnovers, back-to-back-to-back to close the half and FSU hits the locker room up 41-37
Carolina improved its shooting as the half went on and finished the first half at .452. FSU at .542.
That would be a good sign for UNC, except UNC was boosted by 5-of-13 from three, which doesn't seem likely to be repeated.
If FSU breaks it open, it will be because of turnovers. Noles only forced six, but they triggered many of FSU's runs.
Brooks hit two midrange jumpers in the first half (including a fall-away). MIssed his first attempt from out there in the second half.
Back-to-back turnovers by UNC. FSU gets a dunk to make it 43-40. Walker is slow to get up for Noles. He has a game high 14.
Walker helped off the court and heads to locker room. Begins walking under his own power as he hits the tunnel.
Meanwhile, FSU hits a three to go up six. Time out UNC.
Walker is back to the bench before the time out ends
Shot clock violation is UNC's third straight turnover.
Brooks hit with a foul as FSU gets an offensive rebound. That sends it to the under 16, FSU up 46-40
They've flipped the foul to offensive on FSU after replay shows he elbowed Brooks in the chin. The initial call was pretty awful, now that I see replay.
Walton hits his fourth three of the game. Not sure I believe this stat, but he now has as many career threes as Dexter Strickland had.
Turnovers trigger back-to-back FSU fast breaks. As feared, the Noles are using the turnover to break it open. Score is up to 54-43.
And Anthony Harris returns to the floor for Carolina! First time in 13 months.
Roy sounded pessimistic that Harris would be back when he was asked yesterday. Also said he wouldn't surprise everyone by parachuting Harris into a game from out of nowhere.
FSU hits from three again. 3-of-3 from out there this half, 3-of-10 from two. FSU leads 60-50 at the under 12.
Garrison Brooks converts an and-one for his first points of the half. He has now passed John Henson and Jeff McInnis on the UNC Scoring List today.
Bacot misses both FT attempts. At the otehr end, Evvans makes two to make FSU 17-of-17 from the line today.
WIlliams also said Harris wouldn't play PG when he returned. He has 3 assists in 4 minutes.
Love hits a three to bring UNC to within four. Time out FSU. 62-58, 9:32 to go.
FSU with a wide open three after UNC cuts it to two. At the under eight, FSU leads 65-62.
Platek gets a steal and tries to take it all the way, in traffic. Blows the layup and triggers an FSU break, and-one. Five point swing because the senior wouldn't give up the ball on the break. 68-62 FSU.
UNC with a turnover. FSU could be sharpening the dagger...
UNC with a second straight turnover (although Platek's play should count as three straight).
Sharpe dribbles down the lane and tries a layup. Poor shot, missed. FSU ball, up 10. Wheels coming off for Carolina.
Harris with five quick points for UNC. Score down to 72-67
UNC loses battle for loose ball out of bounds. We're at the under four. FSU is up 74-69
UNC with the ball late in the game, down three. So, after Love misses, Sharpe tips in the rebound. Sharpe then gives FSU an and-one at the other end.
Leaky Black blocked at the rim.
On that trip down, Williams took Love out in place of Walton. He did this late against NC State too, when Love insisted on hero balling.
Sharpe blocked on the way up under the basket. UNC's last two shot attempts have been blocked at the rim. Less than a minute left, UNC down four.
Sharpe misses two more at the rim and FSU gets the rebound. UNC had the shots it wanted late, but FSU came up big inside.
Walton for three, blocked. FSU just bullying Carolina in this final minute-plus.
FSU finishes off an 82-75 win. UNC drops to 3-3 in the ACC with a tough road loss to an FSU team that was missing its best player in Scotty Barnes.