The North Carolina men's basketball team (8-5, 3-3 ACC) fell to Florida State (7-2, 3-1 ACC) on Saturday afternoon, 82-75, in an up-and-down game where the Tar Heels flashed progress.
Both teams struggled to score in the opening minutes, combining for only 12 points in the first four minutes of the game. While the Tar Heels struggled with the size and length of FSU, they managed to balance their attack, with five different players scoring to take a 14-10 lead.
North Carolina's offensive woes reared their head yet again though, as the scoring dried up and the Seminoles went on a 20-5 run over the next seven minutes to take an 11-point lead, behind eight points from guard M.J. Walker during that span.
With Florida State shooting 54.2 percent in the first half, the Tar Heels managed to rally behind a burst of hot shooting from first-year guards Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Kerwin Walton, all of whom hit threes to give UNC a two-point lead with two minutes left in the game. A series of turnovers to end the half from North Carolina gave the Seminoles a 6-0 run to go into the break with a four-point lead, 41-37.
Yet again, the Tar Heels struggled offensively during the second half, scoring the opening basket and then giving up an 13-3 run to FSU, who retook an 11-point lead.
Redshirt first-year guard Anthony Harris, making his season debut, would give the Tar Heels a spark with his own 5-0 run, and UNC even managed to cut the lead to just one with 2:22 to go after a layup by first-year big man Day'Ron Sharpe, but couldn't make shots or get enough stops as the clock wound down, eventually dropping the game, 82-75.
Who stood out?
While head coach Roy Williams said after the game he wasn't interested in moral victories, North Carolina did show flashes of improvement on the offensive end, with four players scoring in double digits.
The player of the game for the Tar Heels was Anthony Harris though, who established himself as possibly the team's best guard in just nine minutes of play. His +10 for the game led the team, and he scored five points with three assists while immediately looking the part of a steady lead guard that North Carolina has missed all season.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels had a chance down the stretch, trailing by one with just over two minutes left in the game. A four-point play by Raiquan Gray would prove to be their downfall though, as a team lacking in consistent shot-making couldn't manufacture the offense to cut the lead down, forcing themselves to foul and allowing Florida State to push the lead.
Why does it matter?
Even missing one of its best players in Scottie Barnes, Florida State is a good team, something that can't be said about the Syracuse and the Chris Lykes-less Miami teams the Tar Heels had beaten in the past two games. Going the distance against Leonard Hamilton's group of veterans isn't anything to scoff at, especially with the season UNC is having so far.
The emergence of Harris in the rotation could prove vital, giving the Tar Heels a dependable lead guard who can set the offense, hit open shots, and play good defense, something the team hasn't consistently had since Joel Berry II manned the point.
When do they play next?
North Carolina is scheduled to take on Wake Forest on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m.
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