UNC (26-6) forced 17 turnovers, blocked five shots and shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half in advancing to face No. 4-seeded Boston College in the semifinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Tar Heels only scored twice directly off their fast break, but they were out and running often and scoring off their secondary break to the tune of a 24-18 advantage on points in the paint and 25 trips to the free throw line.
Tyler Hansbrough was uncomfortable in his protective mask scoring six points and pulling down four rebounds before fouling out with 2:11 to play. However, his teammates pitched in for him. Wayne Ellington led four Tar Heels in double figures with 18 points.
Hansbrough’s disqualification was his first this season (second of his career) and only the seventh for the team.
“I really felt for Tyler today,” Roy Williams said. “The doctors really wanted him to (wear the mask) and I was able to convince him to do it today. I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince him to do it tomorrow.
“It bothered him like it would bother everybody. It’s one of the things that everyone’s forgotten about with all the stuff, that this is a kid that got hurt and I think he tried to play as hard as he possibly could.”
Hansbrough said he will wear the mask in the next game.
“I’ve got to wear it for a while,” he said. “It affects my vision and it’s uncomfortable. I’m just not one of those guys that likes to have things put on me.”
Ty Lawson added 14 points, eight assists and three steals of well-rounded contribution, while Brandan Wright scored 11 points and blocked three shots and Reyshawn Terry just missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
“Wayne gave us a big lift making some shots today, and Reyshawn gave us a big lift on the backboards,” Williams said. “We were very fortunate [FSU] got in foul trouble.”
Carolina held a tenuous 32-26 lead late in the first half before enacting a 9-0 run surrounding halftime. Spanning just 22 ticks of the game clock, a close game turned into a blowout.
Ellington connected on a three-pointer with six seconds to go until halftime. Lawson picked Jerel Allen’s pocket on the inbounds and Deon Thompson scored on a stick-back as the buzzer sounded.
“I was looking at the guy taking the ball out, and he was looking at the player he was throwing it into,” Lawson said. “He didn't know I was around.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton burst into a tirade of arm-flailing and foot-stomping when Lawson was not whistled for what he perceived was a foul. Hamilton was immediately accessed a technical foul by referee Mike Wood.
“I reacted - maybe overreacted - and he gave me a technical,” Hamilton said. “Obviously he saw it differently, and they have the final say. That didn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the game.”
Hamilton stormed to the locker room, shunning an interview request by ESPN sideline reporter Doris Burke.
Ellington hit the two technical free throws to begin the second half. Then on UNC’s ensuing possession (Carolina would have had the ball anyway by way of the possession arrow), Hansbrough scored on a layup to give the Tar Heels a 40-26 advantage just 16 seconds into the action.
“That got us in flow and got us momentum,” Ellington said.
Florida State only got within 12 points the rest of the way.
The Tar Heels led by as many as seven points early on, until the Seminoles scored seven straight to tie the score, 13-13. But an 8-0 run sparked by threes from Bobby Frasor and Wes Miller, quickly provided UNC some breathing room.
First-team All-ACC performer Al Thornton finished with a team-high 12 points for Florida State (20-12). The Seminoles must now wait and see if they will qualify for an NCAA Tournament berth, while the Tar Heels are two wins from their first ACC Tournament title in almost a decade.
“[Winning the ACC Tournament] is very important to me, as well as my team and my coaches,” Terry said. “It’s very big for us.”