The Seminoles (20-7, 8-5 ACC) took advantage of a myriad of open looks from deep in building an early 25-12 lead. Florida State connected on six of its first eight 3-pointers in jumping out to that 13-point lead, and the Tar Heels (14-14, 3-10 ACC) would be unable to cut their deficit to single digits again until the closing seconds of the game.
Florida State carried a 48-33 lead into halftime and promptly increased that margin to 59-36 with a 9-0 spurt to start the second half. The Tar Heels eventually cut that deficit to nine points at 75-66 with 29 seconds left, but there would be no channeling of that miraculous 21–point rally over the Seminoles, circa 1993.
Chris Singleton paced FSU with 19 points and Deividas Dulkys knocked down five of his 11 3-point attempts in scoring 17 points. Will Graves also connected on five 3-pointers in leading UNC with 21 points. Marcus Ginyard scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds, along with two assists and two steals, in the Tar Heels’ 10th loss in 12 games.
The Seminoles shot 47.4 percent (27-of-57) from the floor, including a 45.8 mark (11-of-24) from long range, while North Carolina countered with a 42.0 percent shooting effort (21-of-50). Florida State outrebounded UNC, 36-31.
INSIDE THE GAME
Open Looks = Made Field Goals
It’s true that the statistics suggested that the Seminoles are not a strong outside shooting team. Their 28.4 shooting percentage from 3-point territory in ACC play speaks volumes, but so does their 36.9 mark from long range in nonconference games.
The difference in those two numbers is that when strong defensive teams – such as those that reside in the elite ACC – make open perimeter looks hard to come by, the statistics drop. But against poor defensive squads – like the ones that often fill ACC nonconference slates – more open looks translate to more makes.
Those facts make it even more puzzling when Roy Williams and his players all seem surprised that Singleton and Dulkys rose above their season averages from 3-point territory to combine for an 8-of-17 shooting display on Wednesday.
“Give credit to them – they were making shots,” Henson said. “Chris Singleton – 10-of-50 [on the season] – hit three 3s in a row, so there was nothing we could do about that. And even their guard, we put him as a driver and he hit a couple of 3s, so it was just a rough one.”
Never mind the fact that the Seminoles feasted on wide-open looks in knocking down six of their first eight 3-pointers of the night.
Maryland enjoyed similar success in drilling seven of its first nine 3-pointers in building a 16-point first half lead 17 days ago. Announcers are apt to say that players are sometimes too wide open when they miss shots from deep; the Tar Heels are desperately trying to prove that theory wrong.
Quite possibly the most telling statistic of the night was provided by Florida State forward Ryan Reid. The senior had dished out a whopping 13 assists in 12 league games prior to Wednesday, but against the Tar Heels’ collapsing defense, the senior totaled six assists.
UNC’s lone fifth-year senior was one of the few that got it right in his postgame press conference.
“We just felt like we didn’t do a good enough job of containing the ball,” Ginyard said. “We had to get our second and third guys helping, which gave them some open looks on the perimeter. We didn’t feel like they were a great shooting team, but with open looks like that, you’re going to shoot a better percentage.”
The Inability to Put Everything Together
Against the nation’s second-best field goal percentage defensive team on Wednesday, North Carolina connected on an impressive 52.0 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half. But the Tar Heels tripped all over themselves in other areas during the first 20 minutes, though, coughing up nine turnovers and allowing five Florida State offensive rebounds.
“To me, the key in the first half was the fact that we turned it over so many times, just careless turnovers, throwing the ball from one guy to another and throwing it out-of-bounds when there was nobody there,” Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference.
It also didn’t help that the Seminoles blistered UNC with a 53.1 shooting percentage in the opening half, delivering the ingredients for a 48-33 halftime lead.
For the most part, the Tar Heels corrected those issues in the second half. UNC only committed five turnovers and held Florida State to 40.0 percent shooting (10-of-25), including a 22.2 mark (2-of-9) from long range.
But when North Carolina needed a sliver of offensive firepower to complete the winning puzzle, the lids shut tight on the Smith Center rims. The Tar Heels went six minutes and six seconds without a field goal after intermission, watching a 13-point deficit grow to 20.
Combine those struggles with inconsistent levels of effort and emotion, and it’s easy to see why the Tar Heels currently share the ACC cellar with N.C. State.
The Sound of Silence
Four questions. One minute, 10 seconds.
That’s how long it took until the media’s question well ran dry in talking with Ginyard following the game. For seven long seconds, the silence was crisp and telling. It’s a reporter’s job to find words where others can only scratch their heads, but the repetitive nature of North Carolina’s free fall this season is reducing even the most talkative media members to struggle to describe the situation in a fresh manner.
Injuries? There’s been eight of them this year, beginning with Ginyard’s left foot in early December and hopefully ending with David Wear’s injured left hip last Thursday.
Defensive lapses? Throw darts at the schedule and you’ll most likely land on one – see Florida State’s 53.1 first-half shooting display as an example.
Runs? IC may as well have reserved a spot in this column for that topic this season.
Embarrassing moments? From foreign countries to Division II fan ejections, that subject has been well-publicized.
In a twist that no one saw coming, the only way to break this cycle of failing words is for the Tar Heels to etch a few more notches in the win column. There’s no doubt that this season has been a learning process for all parties involved, from coaches and players to fans and media.