No. 8 North Carolina uses late run to defeat No. 16 Florida State 77-59

Before North Carolina coach Roy Williams let his team off the bus to celebrate with the Tar Heel fans after their win over No. 1 Duke, he told his team not to get complacent.

He reminded them that they had two losses at home and they needed to protect their home court on Saturday against Florida State. He told them to celebrate until 8 a.m., and then it was back to business.

“I think I probably harped on that more this week than I ever have,” Williams said.

Florida State kept the game close until the final 10 minutes. That’s when the Tar Heels kicked it up a notch. The Seminoles trailed by four points with about 10:36 remaining before the Tar Heels went on a 16-1 run.

UNC senior forward Luke Maye hit two 3-pointers during that span, and the Tar Heels won 77-59 over the 16th ranked Seminoles.

Maye, who had 30 points and 15 rebounds against Duke, started slow but hit those two big shots when they counted most. Maye finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

North Carolina’s Nassir Little (5) dunks on Florida State’s Mfiondu Kabegnele (25) during the first half on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C Robert Willett

UNC freshman Nassir Little and graduate senior Cam Johnson both led the Tar Heels in scoring. Little scored 18 points and had 8 rebounds. His 18 points were the most he had in a game since Jan. 21 against Virginia Tech, when he scored 23.

Johnson had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

“Nassir was huge for us,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “He had eight rebounds, which is his high. Nassir and (Brandon Robinson) both were big.”

UNC freshman point guard Coby White struggled shooting for the second consecutive game. He finished with 10 points and was 4 of 13 from the floor.

But Tar Heels’ defense was good enough that didn’t need a huge offensive performance from its best players. They held the Seminoles to 30.5 percent shooting, just three days after holding Duke to 35 percent.

UNC (22-5, 12-2 ACC) is now 16-0 in the game following the first Duke game during the Roy Williams era.

Florida State’s David Nichols (11) is trapped by North Carolina’s Coby White (2) and Andrew Platek (3) during the first half on Saturday, February 23, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett

The Tar Heels have won 10 of their last 11 games, which includes road wins over No. 1 Duke and then-No. 15 Louisville, and now a home win over No. 16 Florida State (21-6, 9-5). Their lone loss during that stretch came against then-No. 4 Virginia at home.

Little’s biggest points came early in the first half. He caught a pass at the top of the key and drove toward the basket. As he got to the hole, he jumped and dunked over 6-10, 250-pound Mfiondu Kabengele, who tried to challenge his shot.

“I had already told myself, ‘this is a dunk,’” Little said. “And you know once I say that, whoever jumps, whatever happens, happens.”

The crowd roared. Florida State missed on its next possession and UNC junior guard Brandon Robinson hit a 3-pointer in transition to put the Tar Heels up by seven. The Tar Heels completed their 14-3 run after Johnson knocked down another 3-pointer, giving them a 31-18 lead with 6:38 left in the first half.

But Florida State fought back. The Seminoles ended the half on a 16-6 run to cut the lead to three points. Both teams had shot below 40 percent from the floor. But the Tar Heels had a 25-20 rebound advantage at halftime, which gave them the slight edge.

“We know we can play better, but Florida State, they know they can play better as well,” Williams said. “They didn’t shoot the ball anything like I’ve seen them shoot in some of those games they’ve played.”

In the second half, when the Seminoles cut the lead to 56-52 with 10:36 left in the game, the Tar Heels answered. They went on a 16-1 run over the next six minutes, giving them a 19-point lead.

“Every game in the ACC is going to be tough and we’re not going to overlook anybody,” Maye said. “We’re going to come in ready to play every day.”

The Tar Heels cruised from there.

UNC will next play Syracuse on Tuesday.

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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