By R.L. Bynum
Carolina has a history of nightmare games at Tallahassee, but Monday’s visit was more like a dream — although there were some restless moments in the last six minutes.
Sure, the Tar Heels were too sloppy at times, and the near collapse with an 18-point lead cut to four was discouraging. But they further made their case to make the NCAA tournament field by snapping a three-game losing streak at the Leon County Civic Center with a 77–66 victory, their third in a row.
“I’m so proud of their response when they cut it to four,” UNC coach Hubert Davis told the Tar Heel Sports Network. “RJ [Davis] was able to make a couple baskets, we were able to get a couple of key stops and, at the end of the day, that’s what you have to get. You have to have guys step up in late-clock situations and we were able to have that.”
It wouldn’t seem possible that UNC (19–12, 11–8 ACC) would win so easily with only one point from Armando Bacot, but making 48.3% of its 3-point attempts and outrebounding the Seminoles 40–32 easily overcame that.
When Carolina shoots well from the perimeter, you expect it to come from Caleb Love (16 points) and RJ Davis (19 points), and that happened as both scored three 3-pointers.
Joining the shooting parade, though, was Leaky Black (career-high-tying 18 points), who was 3 of 4 from outside the arc and is 10 of 21 (47.6%) in the last eight games. He also had a huge, aggressive, driving two-handed dunk with 1:32 left when UNC needed a big play.
“It’s a lot of perseverance, man,” Black said in a television interview. “This has been a long, tough season. This is when we find out who we really are, winning games like this on the road, tough environment a gritty team. A big-time win.”
Black did an outstanding defensive job on Darin Green, holding one of the best perimeter shooters in the ACC to five points and 1 of 7 shooting from 3-point range. His 152nd career game tied Deon Thompson’s program record for games played.
The spacing that UNC created with all of the perimeter shooting success and the ball and player movement helped set up Black’s big dunk.
“On those closeouts, you don’t have to shoot the 3,” Coach Davis said. “You can shot-fake and put the ball on the floor. I think the shot clock was coming down and so he really could have shot it. But him being aware to be able to pump-fake and put the ball on the floor and finish? I felt like that sealed the game and it doesn’t surprise me what Leaky did on the offensive end.”
Nance put up his second double-double in three games and fifth as a Tar Heel with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He was 3 of 6 from 3-point range and is 7 for 10 in the last two games.
Coach Davis said it was about time when asked by the THSN about the 3-point shooting success.
“I didn’t think we’re a team that could make 15 threes a game but also didn’t think we’re team percentage-wise the worst in the ACC,” Davis said. “That’s where we are. But I’ve just always felt like we were a better perimeter shooting team. They’re going in, but I think they’re good shots.”
UNC, which had 10 3-pointers against Virginia, has double-digit 3-pointers in consecutive games for the first time since doing it in three consecutive NCAA tournament games last season against Marquette, Baylor and UCLA.
After not getting into the previous four games, Dontrez Styles played 10 minutes. It continues to be difficult to predict how Coach Davis will allocate playing time, considering that D’Marco Dunn and Tyler Nickel never got off the bench. Styles only had four points, but played good defense on Matt Cleveland, who finished with 12 points.
Carolina shot a blistering 61.1% from 3-point range and 54.2% overall in rolling to a 43–25 halftime lead.
Bacot committed two fouls 5½ minutes into the game and Puff Johnson got two fouls only 90 seconds after entering the game, but it didn’t matter.
After a 3-pointer from Florida State’s Chandler Jackson tied it at 12, RJ Davis’ 3-pointer was the first of five 3-pointers on an 18–7 run that gave UNC an 11-point lead before taking a 30–21 edge into halftime.
Florida State (9–21, 7–12) couldn’t get the Carolina lead under 13 until a 13–2 Seminoles run sliced it to four with 2:45 left on a Jalen Warley field goal. UNC went more than six minutes without a field goal before an RJ Davis jumper with 2:21 left. Black’s driving dunk, followed by a Davis jumper with 51 seconds left, shoved the lead back to eight.
Caleb Mills led the Seminoles with 19 points.
NOTES — Carolina finishes the regular season Saturday with its senior night game against Duke. The Blue Devils (21–8, 13–5), who won the first meeting in Durham on Feb. 4 63–57, face N.C. State at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday. … UNC won its second straight game against Florida State and earned its first win in Tallahassee since a 106–90 victory in 2016. The Tar Heels are 18–8 at FSU, and lead the series 53–16 and 43–15 since the Seminoles joined the ACC. … UNC was one short of its season-high of 15 3-pointers against The Citadel and Clemson. … Carolina is 12–3 this season and 34–10 in the last three seasons when RJ Davis scores multiple 3-pointers. … With Bacot’s eight rebounds, he passed Clemson’s Tree Rollins for fifth on the all-time ACC list with 1,315. Rollins had 1,311 from 1974 to 1977. … Other than the game at Virginia that Bacot left in the first two minutes, his 21 minutes were a season-low. His previous low other than that Virginia game was 22 minutes at Wake Forest. … It was Bacot’s third career game with one point or no points: He was scoreless in his second career game on Nov. 11, 2019, against UNCW and in that Virginia game where he played fewer than two minutes, and he scored one point at Clemson on Feb. 2, 2021. … Other than at Virginia, his four shots were a season-low. His previous low in other games was six shots four times (vs. Virginia, vs. Miami, vs. Iowa State in Portland and vs. Portland in Portland.)
UNC 77, Florida State 66
UNC lineup combinations
|No. 16 Miami||15–5||24–6|
|No. 13 Virginia||15–5||23–6|
|No. 25 Pittsburgh||14–6||21–10|
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 1 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 21 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 14 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||No. 12 Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||L, 92–85||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||15–9, |
|11||Saturday||W, 91–71||Clemson||Home|| 16–9, |
|13||Monday||L, 80–72||No. 16 Miami||Home||16–10, |
|19||Sunday||L, 77–69||N.C. State||Raleigh||16–11, |
|22||Wednesday||W, 63–59||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||17–11, |
|25||Saturday||W, 71–63||No. 14 Virginia||Home||18–11, |
|27||Monday||W, 77–66||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||19–11, |
|4||Saturday||L, 62–57||No. 12 Duke||Home||19–12,|
|8||Wednesday||W, 85–61||Boston College||Greensboro||20–12|
|9||Thursday||L, 68–59||No. 14 Virginia||Greensboro||20–13|
Photo via @UNC_Basketball