TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – M.J. Walker led five Seminoles in double figure scoring with 21 points to lead Florida State to an 82-75 victory over North Carolina at the Donald L. Tucker Center. The win was Florida State’s 20th consecutive ACC victory win at home and their third straight at home against the Tar Heels.
Florida State won its second consecutive ACC home game and improved to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in ACC play. The loss broke a three-game winning streak for the Tar Heels who fell to 8-5 and 3-3 in ACC play.
Walker led an extremely balanced effort for the Seminoles who outrebounded the Tar Heels by a 30-29 margin. North Carolina entered Saturday’s game with a +10.2 rebounds per game margin and having been out-rebounded only once in its first 12 games of the season. The Tar Heels also began the day ranked as the national leaders in offensive rebounds per game (16.7 per game) and were held three offensive rebounds below their average by the Seminoles. Florida State was led in rebounding by sophomore Balsa Koprivica who totaled a career-high tying nine rebounds.
Including its 105-73 win over NC State on Wednesday, Florida State continued to shoot the ball very well. The Seminoles shot 48 percent from the field, 50 percent from the 3-point line and were nearly perfect for the second consecutive game from the free throw line, 96.2 percent. The Seminoles made their first 23 free throws of the game and have now made 37 of their last 38 free throws in their last two games.
Walker, who also totaled three rebounds and three assists to go along with his 21 points, has scored at least 17 points in six of nine games this season. He was followed in the scoring column by a career-high 19 points from RaiQuan Gray and 10 points each by RayQuan Evans, Balsa Koprivica and Malik Osborne. Gray was a perfect seven of seven from the free throw line, Evans added four assists in the second start of his career and Osborne added two rebounds and two made 3-point shots in the Seminoles’ victory.
The Seminoles shook off a sluggish start and built their biggest lead of the game of 11 points late in the first half. The Seminoles led 7-4 at the first media timeout but trailed 14-12 at the second media timeout. Walker made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point shot attempt the put the Seminoles up 30-19 at the 6:32 mark of the half.
The Seminoles finished the half well and held a 41-37 lead at the intermission.
Florida State was a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line in the first half. Walker led the team in the first 20 minutes with 14 points while Gray totaled 10 first half points.
In the second half, Walker knocked down another three and Osborne added two more from the bonusphere, as the lead was close with Florida State up 65-62 at the fourth media timeout of the half. The game was close throughout, as the Seminoles led by 11 at most and the Tarheels led by four at most. Walker ended the afternoon with four triples and continues his run as a consistent scorer for the Seminoles.
Walker, who leads the ACC in free throw shooting percentage, was 5-of-6 from the line against North Carolina. Walker is shooting .920 from the free throw in the first nine games of his senior season.
Florida State held its lead throughout the second half, though North Carolina worked to keep itself in striking distance until the final buzzer. Twice the Tar Heels took their deficit down to one point, with the Seminoles answering both times on their next possession to increase their lead.
North Carolina, who placed four players in double figure scoring, made 10 3-point shots (including seven in the second half) as it battled the Seminoles throughout the 40 minutes of playing time. The Tar Heels had four double-digit scorers led by freshman RJ Davis with 16 points and freshman Kerwin Walton with 14 points.
Day’Ron Sharpe, who scored six points in the game, pulled the Tar Heels within one point (74-73) on a layup with 2:22 remaining in the game.
A driving lay-up and a made free throw by Gray provided the answer for the Seminoles who closed the game on 8-2 run to gain the win.
Evans, who started in place of the injured Scottie Barnes for the second consecutive game, scored in double figures for the second straight time. After scoring his career-high of 24 points in Florida State’s victory over NC State, he added 10 points, four assists and three steals. In the past three games, Evans has contributed 36 total points and made a perfect eight of eight shots from the free throw line. Evans also tied with Walker and Gray with three steals each.
The Seminoles combined for 10 steals and six blocks against North Carolina.
The Seminoles will look to earn their second victory over a nationally ranked team this season when they travel to play at No. 16 Louisville on Monday, January 18th at the KFC YUM! Center. The game begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be aired on EPSN.