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UNC 78 Florida State 74

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

"It was a weird game"

That has become Roy Williams go to phrase to describe UNC of late and it certainly fits. The Tar Heels played well enough offensively but had to survive an onslaught from FSU's Xavier Rathan-Mayes to squeeze out a 78-74 win. Rathan-Mayes' 35 points were the most by an opposing player in the Dean Smith Center since J.J. Redick scored 35 in 2006. Prior to that, LaSalle's Lionel Simmons scored 37 in 1988.

UNC got off to a solid start in the first half pounding the ball inside and scoring at will despite the Seminoles sporting size in the post. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combined for 8 of UNC's first ten points as the Heels took early control of the game. A balanced attacked helped UNC pull ahead 30-19 with five minutes left. Florida State simply would not go away, a theme that would hold for the rest of the game. With the Heels up 11, Jarquez Smith keyed an 12-5 run to close the period to get the Seminoles within four at the break.

The second half followed much the same form with the Heels hovering around 50% shooting and the lead over FSU bouncing between 5-9 points. Brice Johnson, despite some stiffness in his back, scored 12 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in the second half all while playing with three fouls. J.P. Tokoto came to life to hit three shots key shots to finish the game with nine points. However, the Tar Heels simply couldn't get enough traction to really pull away.

Meanwhile on the other end, FSU kept fighting thanks to 22 second half points from Rathan-Mayes. Every effort UNC made to extend the lead outside the 5-9 point range was answered by the Seminoles. With 4:19 left the Tar Heel lead had been whittled to four points. Justin Jackson's putback off a Marcus Paige miss extended the lead to six and after a Rathan-Mayes miss, Tokoto's in-the-lane jumper pushed the lead to eight.

At this stage winning the game for UNC became a defensive issue. The Heels forced three straight stops before a Meeks layup pushed the lead back to double-digits with 46 seconds left seemingly salting the game away.

Except Florida State simply would not quit.

Rathan-Mayes, who had already gone for 24 points on 10-20 shooting started raining threes. A made three with 35 seconds left followed by Paige going 1-2 at the line left the lead at eight. Rathan-Mayes hit another contested three to cut it to five points and Johnson's 1-2 trip to the line left the door ajar. On the next possession Rathan-Mayes pulled up with Paige and Tokoto contesting the shot and hit a third straight shot from beyond the arc to cut the lead to three with 17 seconds left.

With Rathan-Mayes coming perilously close to willing FSU all the way back into the game, UNC pressured the inbounds pass off the made free throw and forced a different player to bring the ball up for FSU. The process of running a play to get Rathan-Mayes a contested three burned valuable seconds. The three was off the mark and despite Johnson and Jackson going 1-4 on the next two Tar Heel trips to the line, UNC held on for a four point win.

Brice Johnson had 18 points and 14 rebounds despite dealing with a bad back. Johnson also took a fall early in the game which cause him additional stiffness in his back. This led Johnson to stand at the end of the bench instead of sitting when he was out of the game. Paige led the Heels with 19 points including a crucial 5-6 shooting at the line to help close out the win. Justin Jackson's 14 points(including a brutal 2-7 day at the line) and Kennedy Meeks with 12 closed out the double figure scoring for the Tar Heels. Nate Britt shook off three straight bad performances to score four points, dish out three assists and generally play more in control and within the offense.

On the surface this team is a tough nut to crack. Numbers wise the offense was mostly very good except for some suspect free throw shooting. UNC's rebounding was again lackluster with a second straight game under 40% on the offensive boards. The defense has also had its share of problems though much of that in this game can be pinned on one individual playing out of his mind for a stretch. Rathan-Mayes came into this game having hit 18 threes all season in 83 attempts. He was 5-of-11 today adding another name to the long list of opposing players who find their shooting touch much improved in the presence of Carolina blue.

As Roy Williams noted, "weird" is the best adjective to describe this team. In this respect they are very similar to 2011 which was prone to odd games of this nature. At this point this might really be an issue of practice time. Given the long list of banged up Tar Heels, the fact the team is unable to operate with a normal routine could be somewhat disruptive. Ultimately, as long as they win, it really doesn't matter.