North Carolina picked an interesting time to turn in its best offensive game of the season against Florida State in a 89-69 win in the Smith Center.
In what figured to be a defensive battle between two of the best defenses in the country, UNC ran roughshod over the Seminoles.
Florida State had never given up more than 73 points in a game this season — UNC had that in just under 35 minutes.
“It was a good outing for us to say the least,” coach Roy Williams said. “I thought early we were settling for too many jumpers, but in the second half, I can’t find much wrong with what we did offensively at all.”
High praise from Williams, but the numbers flesh out what an offensive performance it was. Through 23 games, Florida State had allowed only four teams to shoot above 40 percent. The Tar Heels shot 56 percent on the game and a staggering 64 percent in the second half.
FSU has had a suffocating defense in past years, as only one opponent in its last 90 games has shot at least 50 percent.
In front of a raucous Smith Center crowd, the Tar Heels simply never stopped making shots.
“Some of it is just hitting shots,” forward Tyler Zeller said. “Some of it is getting the shots. If you can find an open man, move the ball quickly, that will help a lot.”
Even the usually scattershot John Henson nailed a few 20 footers on his way to 16 points.
“I’ve hit a couple jump shots in previous games, and that’s one of those things, once you start hitting jumpshots, it kind of snowballs,” Henson said.
Kendall Marshall announced his emergence in the wake of Larry Drew II’s departure, setting a freshman record with 16 assists in 36 minutes. He left to a huge ovation with just more than one minute left in the game.
The 16 assists mark the most in an ACC game by a UNC player, along with the fourth-highest total in program history.
Harrison Barnes continued his recent spell of good games by scoring 17 points and adding 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
The game turned when Marshall hit a 3-point heave with the shot clock expiring and 10:27 remaining. The Seminoles had been on a 9-0 run until the shot, but the 3-pointer sparked a 9-1 UNC run of its own.
“When he hit that shot to put them up 10, that was kind of a dagger,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Florida State never got closer than 10 after that, as the Tar Heels put the game safely out of reach.
The North Carolina defense held FSU to 15 assists against 14 turnovers, which pales in comparison to UNC’s 23 assist, 11 turnover effort.
“That’s a team that is playing with a tremendous amount of poise,” Hamilton said. “We just got beat by a team that was more efficient in a lot of different areas.”
Sunday’s 89-point outing looks even more surprising when viewed through the 61 points Duke scored in a loss at Tallahassee.
In a season that started off as little more than a glorified Duke coronation, Wednesday’s game in Durham will determine the top ACC team at the conference season’s midpoint.
“That’s going to be big,” UNC guard Dexter Strickland said. “I’m not going to lie, they beat our butts last year, and that’s going to motivate us.”
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