Florida State tops tired Tar Heels to advance to title game

Florida State’s Balsa Koprivica (5) blocks a shot from Carolina’s Armando Bacot (5) on Friday, March 12, 2021 in Greensboro, N.C. (Winston-Salem Journal/Andrew Dye) 031321-wsj-spt-unc

GREENSBORO — On Feb. 27, UNC looked slow and out of synch, falling behind Florida State in a lackluster first half. Carolina put together an impressive second-half rally to win that game.

On Friday night in Greensboro, the game followed the same script, right up until the ending.

Carolina was thoroughly outplayed in the first half, looking every bit a team that was playing its third game in 49 hours against a team making its first appearance in the tournament. Florida State built an 11-point halftime lead.

The Tar Heels came roaring back, putting together a 13-2 run at one point to pull ahead by five. FSU responded with a 6-0 run, and the dogfight was on.

In the end, whether it was tired legs, bad luck or execution by the Seminoles, the Heels fell short. Carolina had three straight empty possessions late in the game and ended up losing 69-66. FSU will go on to play Georgia Tech for the ACC title on Saturday.

Three thoughts

1. Carolina shot just 8 of 30 for 27% in the first half, but the Heels heated up after halftime, hitting 15 of 38 and 5 of 11 from three, which helped spark the rally.

2. UNC may have lost the game at the free-throw line. The Tar Heels had a lopsided advantage in free throws most of the game, until they began fouling intentionally late. While FSU hit 16 of 22 from the line, UNC was just 14 of 25.

3. Much like in the FSU game at the Smith Center, the Carolina bigs struggled to be involved in the first half.

Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe combined for six shots, as many as Anthony Harris had by himself. The quartet came out of their collective shell in the second half, taking 13 shots.

Number to Know

30, 20 — For the first time in 30 years, since 1990 when Georgia Tech played Virginia, the ACC championship game will not feature Duke or North Carolina. The Greensboro public seems to have reacted to the news, as tickets for the title game could be had online for as little as $20.

They Said It

“I talked about it with one of my staff members. I did think about it, but I don’t think there’s any great answer. It’s something we’ve been worried about all year.”

—Roy Williams on whether he thought about not playing.

Player of the Game

Kerwin Walton — The freshman had been shut down for much of the ACC Tournament. He made one 3-point shot late in the rout of Notre Dame on Wednesday but was 1 of 7 from three midway through the second half. He then hit three of four to tie the score.

Critical thinking

The officiating was shaky on both sides for much of the night. Several travels and carries were missed, and the crowd roared its disapproval when the refs missed a goaltending call that would have given Bacot a basket.