Greensboro, N.C. –— The 15th-ranked Florida State found a way to reach the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship game despite not shooting the ball well.
North Carolina ended their night with a 69-66 loss in the ACC semifinal to the Seminoles, the Tar Heels just ran out of gas the last four minutes of the game.
“It’s just tough for us because we wanted that championship,” UNC point guard Caleb Love said. “We wanted to get to that championship. But just coming into this tournament, we learned a lot, and we just got to push forward for this next stretch.”
UNC missed six straight shots, including a Love shot late in the contest that clanked off the backboard with 1:27 remaining.
The Tar Heels struggled in their half-court offensive sets, especially getting points on the blocks. North Carolina scored only eight points inside during the first half. They shot 33.8 percent from the field, and were 14-of-25 from the free-throw line.
The Seminoles took advantage of UNC’s shooting woes and took a 35-24 lead into the break.
“We’ve done some good things, but right now the pain and the negative feelings you have about letting one slip by that you had a chance to win is a lot more dominating than any of the other thoughts,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
Caleb Love led North Carolina in scoring with 13 points, but hit just 4-of-14 shots for the contest. He also had one assist to four turnovers, but did manage to hit 3-of-5 from downtown. Armando Bacot chipped in 12 points and six boards, while freshman Kerwin Walton had 11 points, five rebounds and three treys.
“Bottom line,” Williams said, “is their defense late in the game was much stronger than our offense was.”
At the end of the day, especially when playing a team with tremendous size like that of FSU, it takes a lot of energy to keep your season alive. After playing three physical games in three days, UNC just ran out of gas in the game on Friday.
“Just getting in our offense, we can’t really get into our set offense against them because they deny so much,” UNC guard Caleb Love said. “So to beat them you gotta do a lot of movement, a lot of screening your own man. We couldn’t really get nothing in the flow of the game.”
The North Carolina men’s basketball team bruised and battled its way through three games in three nights and in the end, they ran out of juice.
UNC led 64-62 on three free throws by RJ Davis with 3:14 left, but didn’t score again until trailing by four in the final five seconds.
Anthony Polite hit the go-ahead trey from deep with 2:06 left in the game, UNC’s Leaky Black scored on a layup from an offensive rebound with three seconds remaining.
Florida State held off UNC the remaining few seconds to earn a match-up with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
“They’re definitely unique in that respect because they’ve got so much length, and they’re athletic and they play 12 players deep,” Armando Bacot said. “So kind of like how we are with our front court, they always have fresh legs. They’re switching, they’re fronting the post, not letting us get into our sets. So it was a tough thing.
Balsa Koprivica had career highs of 17 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double to lead the second-seeded Seminoles (16-5), who blew a 13-point lead, then rallied from five down halfway through the second half to grind out a tough win that came down to the wire.
“Bottom line is their defense late in the game was much stronger than our offense was,” UNC coach Roy Williams said, adding: “We never got another good shot after (Davis’ free throws) the whole time.”