Tar Heels Pull Away From Florida State

TALLAHASSEE – The high-octane North Carolina Tar Heels have fueled talk of a Final Four return with beating after beating of its Atlantic Coast Conference foes so far this season. In Sunday's 81-60 victory at the expense of Florida State, the second-ranked Heels didn't look the part of national title contender for much of the contest.

They may have preferred it that way.

"It's very important (to play close games) because once you get into the tournament, everything is life or death," Jackie Manuel said. "We have to get used to playing some difficult games before then."

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  • After consecutive routs of Virginia and NC State, the Tar Heels (19-2) had to sweat through the first 30 minutes against the Seminoles (11-11). FSU connected from beyond the arc on four straight trips during one stretch early in the second half to narrow the UNC lead to 49-48 with 14:16 to play.

    But Felton formulated a resounding response on UNC's next possession, finding Rashad McCants for a crowd-silencing dunk. From that point, the Tar Heels outscored the Seminoles 32-12 and even held FSU scoreless for a stretch of over seven minutes.

    "We have to learn to play in these situations and we have to learn how to get out of holes," said UNC coach Roy Williams who chose not to call a timeout once Diego Romero capped the flurry of Seminole three-pointers. "I like to call timeouts when something can be said other than 'woe is me'."

    Added Felton: "We know what kind of team we are and we are confident team that didn't need a timeout."

    Starters McCants (16 points), Felton (14) and Sean May (13) paced Carolina with double-digit performances. Freshman Marvin Williams added 13 in his second straight impressive performance off the bench.

    Von Wafer led FSU with 14 points but was harried into a 5-for-12 shooting performance by Manuel.

    "He's a great spot up shooter, so I just tried to make it as difficult as possible for him," Manuel said. "I had a lot of help, too. Guys rotated around when he did shake free."

    Carolina tied a season-low by committing just nine turnovers while forcing the stagnant Seminoles into 22. UNC turned the ball over just twice after halftime.

    The Tar Heels also kicked it up a notch on the boards where they held an impressive 23-11 advantage at the break.

    "I thought that they did an excellent job on the offensive glass," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Any time you give a team of their caliber 18 extra opportunities, they are going to make you suffer the consequences."

    The victory erased memories of UNC's last trip to Tallahassee when the Tar Heels squandered a school-record 24-point lead in a 90-81 overtime loss. UNC is now 32-8 all time against FSU.

    "That was one of those ugly wins that we like to have (sometimes)," Willams said. "I guess if you play ugly and score 81 you have to feel good about yourself. I like the fact that we won it and it wasn't pretty.

    "I'll take it."

    The Heels continue a three-game road swing with a much-anticipated showdown at Duke on Wednesday. Tip-off at Cameron Indoor is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN.

    "This is one of the biggest rivalries in the country and one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports," said Felton. "We'll be ready."

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