UNC faced Florida State in Tallahassee the site of last seasons embarrassing 33 point loss looking to avoid dropping to 0-3 in conference play for only the second time in program history.
Keeping an eye on the rotations, Desmond Hubert got the start again at the center position for Roy Williams. Joel James was the first man off the bench coming in for Hubert who was abused on the defensive end to start the game. P.J. Hairston entered the game a couple minutes later for Marcus Paige. Brice Johnson took Joel James’ spot just three minutes after he entered the game. J.P. Tokoto gave Reggie Bullock his first rest at the 12:32 mark.
The Heels started off strong with a 6-0 lead a few minutes into the game before giving way to sloppy play and giving up several turnovers and allowing Florida State right back into the game and going on an offensive drought after the quick start. Despite the sloppy play that saw UNC turn the ball over nine times in the first half the Heels played with more hustle and heart than we are used to seeing this season.
On one Carolina possession Hairston showed everything that UNC needs in one series. He out hustled FSU on two occasions saving the ball, drawing a foul on one and getting the ball to his teammate the next and breaking free for an open reverse layup. Hairston led the Tar Heels in the first half with an excellent offensive performance scoring 11 points on 4-7 shooting including 3-6 from three. Hairston finished with a career high 23 points on 9-14 shooting and 4-9 from three, P.J. had several highlight worthy dunks in the second half that really got the Heels going.
Reggie Bullock struggled to score in the first half but rebounded the basketball well. Bullock finished the game with 12 points eight rebounds and four assists.
Both teams shot the ball well in the first half and played hard in an exciting first 20 minutes of play with the Heels leading 33-31 at the half way point. UNC outrebounded FSU 17-9 in the first half.
The second half brought more familiarity with FSU hot with the three point shot with Carolina failing to close out on the shooter and leaving their man open with regularity. Despite FSU being so hot from outside the Heels kept the game close with their best attacking offense of the season. UNC did not rely solely on jump shots and dribble penetrated attacking the rim a lot more than we are used to seeing. After nine first half turnovers UNC turned it over just four times after the break playing much more efficient basketball after the break.
The Heels did a nice job with interior screens to get the ball inside with high percentage shots, playing well on offense was negated by their lack of fundamentals on the defensive end of the court. Down four with five minutes to go after collapsing in crunch time the last two games the Heels went on a 7-0 run to take a three point lead. The scoreboard didn’t move from 75-72 for the last three minutes of the game with both teams desperately needing a win Michael Snaer attempting an awful three point shot with 14 seconds remaining and FSU put Marcus Paige on the line and he connected on both to extend the lead to five.
Second chance points was huge for Carolina who dominated the rebounding battle with 14 offensive boards and winning the overall battle 34-18.
Jackson Simmons played very well for Carolina in his most action of the season with eight points on 4-4 shooting with four rebounds a block and an assist. With McAdoo in foul trouble down the stretch Roy went with a small lineup and Simmons as the only big man on the floor and he played exceptionally well perhaps earning himself more minutes as the season goes on.
This was a very encouraging win as UNC played with a lot of spirit and energy and played their best basketball down the stretch.
Final Score: UNC 77 FSU 72
Up Next: The Tar Heels have a week off before they face Maryland at home on Saturday January 19th at 12pm on ESPN