The No. 16 Florida State basketball team came back to earth on Saturday afternoon— and that earth happened to be in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, never a friendly locale for visiting basketball teams. On a dreary day, the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels showed the Seminoles frigid hospitality, dealing FSU its first loss in nine games with a 77-59 defeat.
This one showed signs of getting out of hand early, as UNC extended to a 13-point advantage in the first half. The biggest reason for that initial gap was offensive rebounding, with which the Heels often excel. True to form, North Carolina snagged 9 offensive boards before the break. FSU was able to get back into the game when its threes started dropping, and they hung around over the last handful of minutes before the half with an unconventional lineup of David Nichols, Devin Vassell, Raiquan Gray, Anthony Polite, and Terrance Mann, with Phil Cofer rotating in.
Nichols in particular provided a nice spark for the ’Noles, notching team-highs with 11 points prior to intermission and 16 at the final buzzer. The bigger question, or course, was why Forrest would hit the bench for such a lengthy stretch while not being in foul trouble. All things considered, a 37-34 deficit at the break was just fine for a Seminole squad being outshot 42.6%-30.5%.
Concerns for Forrest may have been somewhat allayed when he started after halftime, but that didn’t last long, as he was noticeably less than 100% and eventually limped off with what appeared to be the resurfacing of a nagging turf-toe injury. Without their best off-the-dribble threat, FSU needed points from either its bigs or its shooters, and it got neither.
The Seminoles were handled on the inside by a stout Carolina interior defense, and the Heels outscored FSU 28-12 in the paint. Perimeter shooting wasn’t egregious for the ’Noles, who made 10-31 (32%). But aside from Nichols, needed snipers like M.J. Walker, PJ Savoy, Phil Cofer, and Devin Vassell went a combined 1-14. The second-half shooting disparity got away from Florida State as the score did, and UNC wound up hitting at 48% after the break to 25% for the Seminoles.
Wherever it was on the floor, Florida State just didn’t get enough shots to drop: the ’Noles made 8-28 two-point attempts all game.
This concludes a three-game road swing for the Seminoles, and finishing that stretch 2-1 should not go unappreciated, as the ’Noles solidified their place in the NCAA Tournament. And now FSU gets three straight at home, beginning with a quick turnaround (for the third time this season) to host Notre Dame on Monday night.