North Carolina (30-2) used a 14-5 first half run to take control of the third head-to-head matchup between these two programs with a 35-28 lead at the break, and then the Tar Heels put the game away with a 10-3 spurt in the final 20 minutes to open up a double-digit working margin.
The Tar Heels shot 52.6 percent from the floor, highlighted by a 59. 3 field goal percentage in the second half. The reason for the shooting success discrepancy before and after halftime can be directly tied to UNC’s offensive attack.
“I thought we were more aggressive offensively in the second half than we were in the first half,” head coach Roy Williams said. “We settled too much for outside jump shots in the first half as opposed to getting the ball inside by dribble or pass.”
To back that statement up, consider that North Carolina attempted 21 free throws in the second half compared to just three attempts from the charity stripe during the opening 20 minutes. Tyler Hansbrough connected on 8 of his 10 free throws en route to posting a team-high 22 points, to go along with six rebounds. The Sporting News’ National Player of the Year failed to go to the line during the first half, making three straight halves that he did not attempt a free throw.
“I wasn’t really focused on it,” Hansbrough said of not going to the line for over 60 minutes of continuous game time. “If I get the ball inside the way we attack, I think it just happens. It’s not a situation where I constantly try to get fouled. It is just something that happens.”
Wayne Ellington added 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, Marcus Ginyard posted 10 points, four assists and six rebounds and Quentin Thomas had four points and three assists. Thomas is now tied with the 1984 class for most career wins at North Carolina (117).
Florida State (19-14) also shot the ball well on Friday, connecting on 49.1 percent (27-of-55) of their field goals, including knocking down 10 of their 21 attempts from long range. Toney Douglas scored 18 points for the Seminoles, while Ralph Mims added 15 from his wing position.
“We had a stretch of about six to seven minutes in the second half where we were really good defensively and other than that, I thought Florida State’s offense probably won that battle against our defense,” Williams said. “But during that time period that we were good defensively, we got some turnovers and got some easy shots on the other end.”
Jason Rich picked up where he left off on Thursday, scoring 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. The senior guard scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half of the opening round win over Wake Forest, and that streak continued early against the Tar Heels until Ginyard was able to contain him defensively.
“We paid more attention to him and we did a better job of going over the top of the screens and not letting him the split the [ball screen] and drive it down the middle,” Williams said.
The sellout crowd of 20,035 at Bobcats Arena was expected to make up for a lackluster showing on Thursday with North Carolina taking the stage Friday afternoon, but outside of a few exciting moments, the fan support was just as flat as the Tar Heels were on the floor. The loudest roar of the day came after Ginyard hit a 3-pointer to put UNC up 15 points in the closing seconds, but the junior wing indicated that this team’s success is not dependent upon crowd reaction.
“We just always talk about the crowd being there being a good thing for us, so when they’re not necessarily that crazy and that energetic, it’s not something that we look as a negative thing,” Ginyard said. “We just get out there and do what we have to do.”
The Tar Heels will host No. 4 seed Virginia Tech at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in semifinal action.