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The Daily Tar Heel

Forte Bounces Back from UVa. Game

Forte slowly weaved his way through a throng of writers and cameras before sitting down next to center Brendan Haywood on one of two love seats provided for the North Carolina players for postgame interviews.

Forte, with a few drops of sweat dangling from his brow, had no reason to avoid the horde of reporters waiting for his arrival after this contest.

Forte, coming off an 11-27 shooting performance against Virginia in which he didn't speak to the media afterward, scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting to help UNC defeat N.C State.

Forte tossed in 19 of those points after halftime after being held to 4-of-10 shooting in the first 20 minutes.

"I was letting the game come to me," Forte said. "I wasn't attacking like I normally do. In the second half, I attacked more."

Forte attempted his first shot 45 seconds into the game, scoring on a layup to give UNC a 6-0 lead. But he didn't force his hand throughout the half.

Forte was stuck on four points until he hit a pull-up jumper in transition over Archie Miller with 5:16 left in the first half. Forte later closed the half with a steal and breakaway dunk to give the Tar Heels a 34-27 halftime lead.

"Joe's got unbelievable hands," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "He gets a finger on the ball, and it's his. That was a big, big play to go into the half."

Forte had come out of the gates aggressively against Virginia on Sunday, when he made seven of his first eight shots. But Forte struggled after that and missed 12 of his final 16 attempts.

Forte found his touch later in the game against the Wolfpack. He connected on seven of his first nine attempts after halftime, including a stretch of six straight.

With the Tar Heels leading by 11 with less than eight minutes remaining in the game, Forte took over. He scored eight of UNC's next 12 points and finished the game by scoring 12 of its final 18.

As a result, the Tar Heels clinched at least a share of the ACC title. But this is a team with loftier goals in mind.

During a timeout against the Wolfpack, Doherty pointed up to the banner honoring North Carolina's national championship in 1993. He asked his players if they knew who on that team was named first-team All-ACC.

The answer?

"Nobody knew," Doherty said.

His point exactly. Doherty wasn't trying to pick on Forte and label him as a selfish player, but he was pounding home a point that it takes a team effort to win a national championship.

That effort was present on Wednesday, even though Forte took 41 percent of UNC's 49 shots and was the only Tar Heel with more than eight attempts.

The most important number was the final score, which indicated a UNC win.

A win that Forte was happy to talk about afterward.

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