The Florida State men’s basketball team was 20 minutes from history. The No. 9-ranked Seminoles then played a half of basketball they would love to soon forget.
After leading by as many as 16 points in the first half and by 12 points at halftime, the ‘Noles were completely dominated by North Carolina in the final period Saturday afternoon at Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Tar Heels started the second half with a 30-11 run and held on for a 78-70 victory. The win improved UNC’s record to 14-9 overall and 9-5 in the ACC, while Florida State fell to 14-4 and 10-3.
Florida State, which was aiming to record its third consecutive victory over North Carolina for the first time in school history, controlled the action at both ends of the court in the first half.
But the Tar Heels turned up the defensive pressure in the second period, and freshman center Walker Kessler came off the bench to turn in a dominating performance. Kessler, who scored just eight points the last time the teams played in mid-January (an 82-75 FSU victory), led all players with 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting.
The Tar Heels also controlled the glass, claiming a 44-36 edge in rebounding; they finished with 20 offensive boards.
The Seminoles were led by junior forward RaiQuan Gray with 17 points and eight rebounds, freshman Scottie Barnes with 12 points and Anthony Polite with 10.
Senior guard M.J. Walker, who was questionable for the game, scored 9 points and surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
The game was a complete tale of two halves.
* FSU turned the ball over 5 times in the first period, 12 in the second.
* The ‘Noles shot 45.5 percent in the first half, 32.4 in the second.
* UNC shot 25.0 percent in the first half, 50.0 percent in the second.
* The Tar Heels turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, 7 in the second.
With the win, UNC coach Roy Williams earned the 900th victory of his career.
Despite the loss, the Seminoles still have a chance to win the ACC regular-season championship for the second consecutive season. But they likely will need to win both of their remaining games — at home against Boston College and at Notre Dame — to lock it up.
FSU and Boston College will square off the Tucker Center on Wednesday night.
Stay connected with Warchant.com for complete postgame coverage.