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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Pulls Off Another Close One

The Ravens and Giants offered plenty of it in the Super Bowl, and No. 5 North Carolina and N.C. State did their part at the Entertainment and Sports Arena.

The Tar Heels struggled to score and finished with 60 points, more than 20 below their season average. But the Wolfpack offense was even more offensive, shooting 31 percent from the field and managing 52 points.

"We're very fortunate to come out of here with a win," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "They're a scary team."

It got really scary for the Tar Heels (17-2, 7-0 in the ACC) down the stretch. N.C. State, which shot 19 percent in the first half, still had a chance to win. The Wolfpack made up for its offensive ineptitude with hustle and determination, especially defensively, in the second half.

N.C. State (10-8, 2-5) held the Tar Heels to 11 field goals after intermission. It clawed its way back by converting six steals into easy baskets and denying the ball to UNC's post players. The defense forced the Tar Heels into foul trouble.

"It was our defensive intensity. I think we picked it up," N.C. State guard Anthony Grundy said. "We just picked up our level of play and once we made a collective effort to give it our all, we knew that we could win the game."

N.C. State pulled to within a point with just more than 90 seconds to play on Damien Wilkins' drive and dunk.

Then, Brendan Haywood converted two free throws to stretch the UNC lead back to three. N.C. State got the ball back and called a timeout with 1:10 remaining.

It was time for N.C. State coach Herb Sendek to draw up the game-tying play.

But who would take the shot? Grundy, who shot 6-for-18? Wilkins, who was 5-for-11? How about Damon Thornton or Kenny Inge down low? They combined to miss 15 of 18 field goal attempts. Sendek perused his limited options and called on freshman Scooter Sherrill.

Sherrill took a 3-pointer from the left corner, but Haywood swatted it away. Ronald Curry got the rebound and was fouled. Crisis averted for the Tar Heels.

UNC scored the next five points to close out the game -- the last two on an emphatic dunk by Joseph Forte.

Grundy, who was charged with assaulting his girlfriend Saturday, didn't let his off-court troubles affect him as he held Forte to seven points in the first half.

"Anthony did a great job on Forte, and he played his guts out," Sendek said.

Like Grundy, the Tar Heels also persevered. Foul trouble forced the Tar Heels to play more zone defense than they wanted and kept Kris Lang (eight points) and Jason Capel (two points) from getting into a rhythm offensively.

UNC scored just seven points during a stretch of more than nine minutes in the second half and was thoroughly frustrated.

"There's not a play you can call, not a defense you can put in," Doherty said. "I was grasping for straws out there."

The straw Doherty found was UNC's 10-point halftime lead. It provided a buffer while the team regained their composure.

The win shows how much the team has grown since last season when the Tar Heels seemingly found a new way to lose every game as they lost four straight and went into the Duke game at 13-8.

This year, UNC finished January undefeated and is on a 14-game winning streak.

"Last year in these types of situations, we would probably throw games away," Haywood said. "This year I feel that we're a little bit more mature and we're going to win in these type of situations. We've been in a lot of close games this year, but we haven't lost any of them."

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