Expanded Analysis: UNC 77, FSU 72
1. Roy Williams was frustrated by poor execution late in the first half in losses at Virginia and at home against Miami. But his Tar Heels played much better in the final 2:00 of the first half at Tallahassee, setting the stage for their second-half victory. First, Jackson Simmons (for more on the great Simmons outing, read Saturday's postgame column) hit Reggie Bullock with a textbook backdoor cut. Then, after a Seminole basket, Marcus Paige penetrated and fed James Michael McAdoo with a no-look bounce pass for a two-handed dunk. Simmons drained his soon-to-be-trademarked jumper from the wing, giving Carolina a 33-31 lead.
One of the key plays in the half came from Williams himself. Still facing that two-point deficit, the Seminoles had the final possession and the chance to take the last shot of the half. Michael Snaer dribbled the ball near midcourt, content to let the seconds tick away. But Williams rose off the bench and instructed Paige to go double-team Snaer, forcing the senior to hurry more than he would’ve liked. A rushed Snaer drove into the lane and threw the ball away, preventing FSU from getting a momentum-stealing basket right before the half.
2. As Carolina fans, it’s second nature to moan about the numerous times an opposing team has torched the Tar Heels from the three-point line. That’s the way it looked like Saturday’s game was going, as the Seminoles hit 11 three-pointers in the first 28 minutes. After that, though, something unexpected happened: Carolina completely shut down Florida State’s perimeter game over the final 11:57.
It’s not just that FSU didn’t make a shot from beyond the arc over those final 12 minutes (they went 0-for-3). It’s that for the better part of the game’s most important minutes, they couldn’t even get a three-pointer. Until they hoisted two desperation trifectas in the final 30 seconds, Florida State attempted just one three-pointer in over 11 minutes—that’s for a team that took one three-pointer per minute in the first eight minutes of the half.
“We really tried to contain the ball defensively,” said Reggie Bullock of those final 12 minutes. “We made an effort to play our role, and we tried not to help too much, which allowed us to get back to the shooters on the perimeter.”
3. As recently as a month ago, Williams was extremely frustrated with Carolina’s offensive rebounding. After a Dec. 15 victory over East Carolina, one of Williams’s first postgame comments was, “I look down on the stat sheet and no post player got an offensive rebound in the entire game.” At various times during his ten-year tenure in Chapel Hill, he’s referenced hitting the offensive glass as an effort proposition. Given that description, there’s no other conclusion than that the Tar Heels must have been at maximum effort against the Seminoles, because they hauled down 19 offensive rebounds, turned those boards into 19 second-chance points, and dominated the overall rebounding battle, 41-19.
The 19 Florida State rebounds were the fewest by a UNC opponent since March 15, 2007, when Eastern Kentucky managed just 16 boards in an NCAA Tournament game. “When you give a hungry, athletic, aggressive team opportunities to get a second shot…they’re already talented enough to make it on the first shot, so that’s a bad formula,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.