North Carolina 81, Florida State 75

UNC rebounds from slow start for 81-75 win at Florida State

CorrespondentFebruary 17, 2014 

Correction: This story incorrectly reported that UNC will visit Duke on Thursday. The basketball game will be played in Chapel Hill.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A slow start and a star player in foul trouble put the North Carolina into a hole bigger than any it had seen this season.

Freshman Kennedy Meeks helped the Tar Heels to climb out of it and ensure that their winning streak hit seven.

Meeks, who entered Monday’s game at Florida State averaging 7.2 points and 16 minutes per game, scored a career-high 23 points to spark UNC to an 81-75, come-from-behind victory at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

Marcus Paige added 20 points and Brice Johnson had 14 to help Roy Williams to his 300th victory at UNC. Williams is 300-86 (.777) in 11 seasons at his alma mater and became the fastest coach in ACC history to reach 300 wins.

“I’ve lived a blessed life on that basketball court,” Williams said. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”

Meeks’ star turn came while UNC junior James Michael McAdoo mostly watched from the bench with foul trouble. McAdoo picked up two fouls before the midway point of the first half and had a third before halftime.

Foul No. 4 came less than three minutes into the second half. The 6-foot-9 forward played only 13 minutes, finishing with zero points and five rebounds.

McAdoo, who had scored in double-digits in 17 straight games, fouled out with 4 minutes, 19 second left in the game after committing a charge on Okaro White.

UNC (18-7, 8-4) faltered in the first half and trailed 21-6 less than 10 minutes into the game thanks in large part to Florida State guard Ian Miller, who scored eight in the first four minutes on the way to a team-high 22 points.

The Tar Heels made only two field goals in the first 10 minutes and finished the first half 14 of 36 from the floor (38.9 percent).

When Williams took his first timeout, the message was simple.

“I wasn’t doing any coaching. I just screamed at them,” he said. “And I thought that’s what they needed. But after that, I said, ‘We can get back in there.’ 

The Tar Heels eventually did by slowing their offensive pace and taking advantage of //Florida State;s poor post defense.

Paige, who had 16 points in the second half, noticed that each time he drove into the lane, a Seminoles big man would help defend, leaving Meeks or Johnson alone under the basket.

More often than not, a quick pass led to an easy layup.

“I was expecting them to stop helping from the big-guy spot,” Paige said, “but they just kept coming over so obviously it kept leaving them open.”

Meeks was 11 of 12 from the floor, most of which came so close to the basket that, as Williams put it, “you could cough it in.”

Meeks scored 13 in the first half, including eight consecutive for UNC that helped it close the gap to 36-33 at halftime.

Williams felt fortunate to be that close.

“At halftime, I said I feel like I’ve stolen every cookie out of the cookie store,” he said. “Nobody else got any because I got them all because we were just down three at halftime.”

Meeks had six more points in the first three and a half minutes of the second.

As the game wore on, the Seminoles (15-11, 6-8) ran into foul trouble of their own.

White picked up his third and fourth fouls just four seconds apart early in the second half, and played only 17 minutes. Centers Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo each fouled out, contributing to 50 points in the paint for UNC.

The Tar Heels shot 67.9 percent (19 of 28) in the second half, led by Paige’s 5-of-8 effort. It was the 10th time this season that the sophomore has scored four or fewer points in the first half, followed by double digits in the second.

“He had the look in his eye,” Williams said. “And started making a bunch of shots.”

Nate Britt’s jumper gave UNC its first lead, 57-55, with 10:05 remaining and the Tar Heels didn’t trail for the rest of the game.

After Florida State’s Aaron Thomas two free throws trimmed the deficit to 70-69 at the 2:58 mark, North Carolina went on an 11-6 run to seal the game.

“At first we were all getting discouraged because nothing was going right,” Meeks said. “But as the game progressed, the team stuck together.”

The game was North Carolina’s second in a stretch that features four contests in eight days.

The Tar Heels will play Duke in Chapel Hill on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN) for a game that was originally scheduled for Feb. 12 before weather forced a postponement.

UNC then will host Wake Forest at noon Saturday.

“This is a big win for us,” Paige said. “We need this win.

“But it definitely started out very interesting for us, to say the least.”

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