North Carolina (29-5) and Florida State (24-9) traded blows in a surprising up-tempo start before the Seminoles warmed up from 3-point range and created separation with an 11-2 run.
The Seminoles added a 9-2 spurt later in the half to push its lead to 47-31, but Harrison Barnes fueled a 9-2 run to get the Tar Heels back within 49-40 at halftime.
Florida State increased its lead to 14 points with 14:38 remaining, but North Carolina gradually chipped away at its deficit before utilizing a 9-2 run in the closing minutes to pull within 83-82 on a clutch double-pump 3-pointer from Kendall Marshall (15 points, 9 assists).
The Heels got the ball back with a chance to take the lead with 17 seconds left, but Marshall missed a 3-pointer. Deividas Dulkys (16 points) knocked down a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds left to finalize the scoring. P.J. Hairston (13 points) missed a long 3-pointer from out front as the buzzer sounded.
Harrison Barnes led all scorers with 23 points. Tyler Zeller posted a double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. James Michael McAdoo, making his second-straight start in place of the injured John Henson, tallied four points, eight rebounds and four steals.
ACC Tournament MVP Michael Snaer paced FSU with 18 points, while Luke Loucks (13 assists) and Ian Miller both added 10 points.
Florida State shot 58.9 percent from the floor (33-of-56), which represents a season-high for a UNC opponent. The Tar Heels connected on just 39.4 percent of their field goal attempts (28-of-71).
INSIDE THE GAME
The number 33 has been written on North Carolina’s locker room wipe-off board ever since the 90-57 dismantling in Tallahassee. It’s served as a reminder for what can happen if the Tar Heels don’t bring the necessary toughness and effort to every game.
Florida State once again brought the fight to UNC on Sunday, building a 16-point lead with 2:45 left in the first half. What happened next was a lesson if how much this North Carolina team has grown since Jan. 14.
“We knew that we could either give up and got back to 33 or we could make a run,” Zeller said.
The Tar Heels closed the half on a 9-2 run, and although FSU increased its lead to 14 in the second half behind fire-hot shooting, the boys in blue kept fighting, forcing a stop every so often to slowly cut into that deficit.
“I really like the way my team came back and fought,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. “I really liked the toughness that we showed. I liked that we tried to do a better job each and every possession.”
In the end, UNC’s rally wasn’t enough. Florida State was just the better team on this championship Sunday, but North Carolina made the Seminoles earn their first ACC Tournament title by playing with a toughness that wasn’t available in Tallahassee.
Growth and Development
There were several offensive possessions on Saturday and Sunday that North Carolina looked out of sync, but there’s a legitimate explanation – several of the lineups that Williams put on the floor have never played together, let alone practice together.
Zeller and Reggie Bullock were joined by Stilman White, Justin Watts and P.J. Hairston for a stretch in the first half against Florida State, so it’s understandable if that group hasn’t gotten much run in practice.
But after McAdoo and Watts stepped up on Friday and Saturday, respectively, Hairston followed suit on Sunday. The freshman guard scored all 13 of his points in the second half, fueling the crowd and UNC’s rally with a trio of 3-pointers and several hustle plays.
Likely the biggest takeaway for the Tar Heels this weekend is that after being a question mark for the bulk of the season, the bench proved that it can deliver when a player of Henson’s caliber is sitting on the bench.
“Early in the season, I thought our bench was giving us some great things and then we went through a lull where we didn’t get much from the bench, but I think they did give us some moments out there this weekend,” Williams said.
Marshall and Zeller echoed those sentiments in the UNC locker room.
“It’s very critical for us as players and the coaches to be able to put those guys in with confidence and know that they’re not going to hurt us,” Zeller said. “P.J. gave us a great lift today with the threes. That’s something we’ve been waiting on him to do. When he’s hitting those threes, we become an even harder team to guard.”
Blistering the Nets
Florida State has made 10 or more 3-pointers in just two of its 33 games this season – both against North Carolina. Oddly enough, the Seminoles knocked down 7-of-13 treys in the first half of both games and combined for a 23-of-49 effort overall.
Dulkys, of course, provided the offensive spark from long range in both contests. Despite making two or fewer 3-pointers in 23 of his last 25 games, the senior guard has exploded against UNC by making 12-of-19 from long range.
Dulkys has now made 46 3-pointers this season with 12 of them coming against the Tar Heels.
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