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January 28, 2009
"That's the first time that's happened since I've been here. It was fun."
Lawson's buzzer-beater helped UNC avoid what would have been a major meltdown. The Tar Heels led the Seminoles, 52-39, five minutes into the second half, but behind 24 second half points from Toney Douglas, FSU rallied to take the lead in the closing minutes.
The Seminoles had a chance to put the game away in the final two minutes with the ball and leading by three points, but a key Danny Green steal and three-point play tied the game. FSU had the ball in the closing seconds with a chance to win, but a shot-clock violation gave UNC the ball with just 3.2 seconds on the clock. Lawson took the ball on an in-bounds pass, drove unobstructed to the basket, and launched a three-pointer that swished through the net as time expired.
SHOOTING WOES (EXCEPT AT THE FREE THROW LINE)
Despite pulling out the clutch victory, it wasn't exactly a banner game for the Tar Heels shooting the basketball. For the game, UNC was a dismal 24-for-63 from the field (38.1 percent) and fared even worse from three-point range, making seven-of-19 (36.8 percent). The saving grace for the Tar Heels turned out to be free throw shooting. UNC connected on 25 of 32 free throws on the night. Considering that Florida State made four more field goals than the Tar Heels over the course of the game, UNC's 10-point advantage from the charity stripe (FSU was 15-of-21 at the line) ultimately proved to be the difference.
PG Ty Lawson: Even without his game-winning shot, Lawson was undoubtedly one of the stars of the night for the Tar Heels. The junior led UNC in scoring (21 points), assists (4), and even rebounds (9). He was six-of-seven from the field, and eight-of-nine from the free throw line in 37 minutes of action.
SF Danny Green: Green was also one of the heroes for the Tar Heels, scoring 20 points on six-of-13 shooting, which included four three-pointers. He added four free throws in five attempts. He added seven rebounds, six steals, three assists, and one blocked shots in 32 minutes. His steal in the final two minutes and subsequent three-point play arguably saved the game for the Tar Heels.
SG Wayne Ellington: It wasn't the greatest of games for Ellington, who shot just three-of-13 from the field, but he did manage 14 points in 37 minutes of action. He added three rebounds, one assist, and one steal on the night.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Hansbrough: Despite spending much of the game mired in foul trouble---not to mention facing stifling double and triple-teams from Florida State's formidable front line---Hansbrough collected eight points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.
GAME OF SPURTS
Florida State got off to a great start, taking an early 7-0 lead and leading by as much as nine points, but Carolina owned the last several minutes of the first half, holding the Seminoles to just one field goal over a four-minute stretch as they built a 46-35 halftime lead. The UNC lead would eventually get to 13 points in the second half, but Florida State, largely behind Douglas, rallied to take the lead down the stretch. However, the Tar Heels finished the game on a 6-0 run.
TURNOVERS NEARLY PROVED FATAL
North Carolina had its season high in turnovers against the Seminoles (21), which was one of the biggest reasons why they had to fight it out down to the very end. The Tar Heels struggled quite a bit against Florida State's aggressive defenders---many of which were bigger than the UNC players---and there were also several occasions when Carolina was impatient with the basketball. In the end, it was UNC's 42-34 rebounding advantage, combined with their dominance at the free throw line, that helped the visitors avoid the upset.
Things really could have gotten squirrelly for the Tar Heels had they dropped this particular game. A loss to FSU would have dropped UNC to 3-3 in the league---a full two games in the loss column behind Duke, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech---but with the win Carolina remains right in the thick of things. Wake Forest's victory earlier in the night against Duke, coupled with the win over the Seminoles, allowed UNC to pick up a game in the standings, and with a 4-2 mark, the Tar Heels have some breathing room above the .500 mark. Simply stated, although it's late January and there's over half of the conference schedule remaining, this victory may very well have saved Carolina's chances of an ACC regular season title. With several difficult games looming on the horizon, this was not a game the Tar Heels could afford to lose if they planned to remain near the top of the ACC standings. While Florida State put up a game effort and proved that they are an NCAA Tournament-worthy squad, the Tar Heels did what they had to do and escaped with a much-needed road triumph.
Saturday, Jan. 31: North Carolina at N.C. State, 3:00 p.m. (ABC)
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