The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

Forte Continues to Make Case For Player of the Year Accolades

The sophomore shooting guard blitzed the Seminoles for 36 points -- two off of his career high -- as the No. 2 Tar Heels eased past FSU 95-67 at the Smith Center on Thursday.

Floaters from the left wing here, a pull-up jumper from 12 feet there and a handful of penetrating drives through the Seminole defense were just too much for Florida State to handle.

"I was just trying to make sure we win," Forte said. "If that means I have to get 36, then so be it."

At times it looked just as simple as Forte described it. The Seminoles were guarding him, but it never really seemed like it. Forte hit 15 of 24 shots from the floor (62.5 percent), including 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point arc.

After not looking like himself against the Tigers, Forte looked determined not to have back-to-back performances unbefitting of a national player of the year candidate, and he didn't disappoint.

"It's probably as good as I've seen in terms of any player this year," Seminole coach Steve Robinson said. "We didn't have any kind of answer for him."

Forte was at his best after an early second-half run from the 'Noles trimmed UNC's 10-point halftime lead to six points, 45-39 with 15:15 left in the half.

After scoring seven of UNC's first nine points after halftime, Forte went nuts.

He hit a tough up-and-under bank shot with 16:17 left, and three minutes later, scored two quick buckets -- both his patented floater from the paint -- which gave UNC a 13-point lead with a little more than 13 minutes left to play.

By the time he received his first break of the second half with 11:47 left, Forte had scored 14 of the Tar Heels' 19 points in the stanza while missing just one shot.

"Every championship team needs a go-to guy, and he's been that for us this year," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "Tonight, he just wouldn't miss. He was playing big basketball."

Forte continued his can't-miss second half with a near-perfect alley-oop pass to Julius Peppers, whose dunk almost brought the Smith Center down.

His last shot of the game was a long 3-pointer with a hand right in his face.

No problem.

"Forte was just hitting unbelievable shots. He just wasn't missing," FSU guard Delvon Arrington said. "Whenever they needed a basket, they just gave him the ball."

With the two teams neck-and-neck early in the first half, it was -- of course -- Forte who stretched the Tar Heel lead. Eight of the Tar Heels' points in a 16-3 run with about two minutes left in the half were Forte's -- on two pull-up jump shots, a wing floater and a baseline drive right around the Seminole defense.

Thursday's game was just another example of why many have picked Forte as the national player of the year.

Said Forte, "I want to win the national championship, want to win the ACC, and I want to win all the individual accolades and make sure the team's not going to lose."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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