Feb. 21, 2004
By JAY COHEN
Associated Press Writer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – This time the comeback ran out of gas.
Rashad McCants scored 21 points to help No. 16 North Carolina hold off Florida State 78-71 on Saturday.
Raymond Felton had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month.
North Carolina, which led by 18 points early in the second half, weathered a Florida State charge that got the Seminoles within 65-64 with 4:01 left, managing to hold on by going 8-of-9 from the free throw line down the stretch. It was quite a difference from its last matchup with the Seminoles (18-9, 6-7), who came back from a 24-point deficit to beat the Tar Heels 90-81 in overtime Jan. 22.
That loss made Saturday’s victory even sweeter for North Carolina.
“Anytime you get revenge on anybody that has beat you it feels great,” said Sean May, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. “This team is growing up. We just have to realize that we can’t keep putting ourselves in those types of positions.”
Tim Pickett had 25 points and Andrew Wilson added a career-high 24 for the Seminoles, who have lost 22 consecutive conference road games. Their last ACC road victory was a 75-63 decision at Clemson on March 3, 2001.
“It’s obvious to me that we have to grow and mature before we understand the mental approach that you have to have when you go on the road and play against teams of this caliber,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
After a 3-pointer by Wilson pulled the Seminoles within one, McCants grabbed a deflected pass and made a 3 on the other end to make it 68-64 with 3:29 remaining. He then stole the ball from Pickett on Florida State’s ensuing possession.
“I think that as a team we needed to take a stand and stop their runs,” McCants said of the steal. “When Florida State gets hot, they can really get hot and I just wanted to do a great job on Tim Pickett defensively.”
UNC 78, FSU 71
McCants, who acknowledged being a little sick this week, also had five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. It was an effort that caught the eye of North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who banished McCants to the locker room during a game earlier in the season.
“He’s probably the most discussed player I’ve ever coached, but he’s coming,” Williams said. “He’s gotten better and better and better.”
McCants has reached double figures in 13 straight games and has 20 or more in eight of the last 10.
Felton was 6-of-8 from the free throw line over the final 3 minutes to help the Tar Heels hold on. It was a strong end to a dismal free throw performance for North Carolina, which went 21-for-37 from the line.
The Tar Heels led 43-27 at halftime as they pounded the Seminoles on the glass, grabbing a 29-9 rebounding advantage. They finished with a 48-28 rebounding margin.
The rebounding performance came in front of several North Carolina greats as the Tar Heels held a reunion for former basketball lettermen on Saturday. The school unveiled banners dedicated to former coaches Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge before the game and honored over 200 former players and team managers at halftime.