“It was a fitting way for ‘Q’ to go out…,” said head coach Roy Williams, who is now 21-0 on Senior Day. “To go through, as I said earlier, all that young man has gone through, it was a great, great night for him. It was a great night for our team to make sure that he went out the right way.”
Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels (28-2, 13-2 ACC) with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Danny Green (12), Marcus Ginyard (13) and Ty Lawson (10) also scored in double figures.
Following a sloppy first half in which neither team shot better than 40 percent while combining for 27 personal fouls, Florida State (17-13, 6-9 ACC) was able to cut into the top-ranked Tar Heels' 44-32 halftime lead behind 11 quick points from guard Jason Rich (27 points for the night on 9-of-17 shooting).
The Seminoles narrowed their deficit to 59-53 with 11 minutes left in regulation, but the Tar Heels used a 14-4 spurt to blow the game wide open. Thomas (four assists, three turnovers) scored all eight of his points in the second half, highlighted by a two-handed dunk that ignited the Smith Center crowd in giving UNC a 90-67 lead in the closing minutes.
After connecting on just 12-of-30 field goal attempts in the opening 20 minutes, North Carolina shot lights out in the second half, knocking down 70.4 percent (19-of-27) of their shots. The Tar Heels have now shot better than 50 percent for six straight games (54.4 percent on 31-of-57 shooting).
“The second half offensively we were pretty doggone good,” Williams said. “We [were shooting] about 76 percent, I think, with about a minute to go. We had better spacing, got the ball where we wanted it [and] made shots.”
North Carolina only forced eight FSU turnovers on the night, but UNC used a variety of traps to frustrate the Seminoles into speeding up their offense, leading to a poor shooting night (42.9 percent on 27-of-63 attempts).
“That’s the trick to them when they’re executing their defensive philosophy,” Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They kind of took us out of our offensive rhythm, and we never seemed to regain our composure and that’s a credit to them.”
Florida State was able to penetrate the middle of the Tar Heels’ defense at times for kick-out opportunities on the perimeter, but the Seminoles were unable to connect from downtown (6-of-24 on 3-pointers).
Ty Lawson continued his slow transition back into the Heels’ rotation, and for the second time in as many games against Florida State, the sophomore point guard left the court in the first half with an injury – this time a left hip pointer.
“Once I came out and they took me into the back, I was frustrated,” Lawson said. “I was kicking things. I was mad because I just got over an injury and now I’m getting hurt again.”
The Clinton, Md. product would return on this evening, however, tallying 10 of his 20 minutes in the second half.
Senior walk-on Surry Wood took advantage of his first career start on Senior Night by scoring a career-high four points in the opening minutes. The Raleigh, N.C. native joined Thomas in a postgame ceremony to thank their families and the fans for their four years in Chapel Hill.
Thomas intentionally committed his fifth and final foul with 1:12 remaining, and walked off the Smith Center floor for the last time to a standing ovation and the long, drawn-out ‘Q’ howl that has become his signature call.
With their home schedule complete with a 14-2 record at the Smith Center, the Tar Heels now must turn their attention to Saturday’s showdown with No. 5 Duke at Cameron Indoor for the chance to secure an outright ACC Regular Season Championship and the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
[We’ve got] 28 wins and 13 in the league,” Williams said. “We feel good where we are and we’ve got a big-time game on Saturday.”