UNC was knocked out of the ACC Tournament in a 69-66 loss to Florida State after a very poor first half and poor free throw shooting doomed their comeback attempt. Carolina was absolutely the better team in the second half, but the 11-point halftime deficit proved to be extremely costly.
Also costly was the Tar Heels’ ability to shoot free throws. The team made just 14 of their 25 attempts from the charity stripe. In a game as close as this one, they all mattered. UNC looked like a team playing their third game in three days in the first half against a Florida State team that hadn’t played a game in the tournament so far. They shot just 27% before halftime and had nearly as many turnovers (seven) as field goals (eight).
This team has a tendency to come back stronger in the second half and that was absolutely true in this one. They even held a lead down the stretch that was ultimately foiled by going 1-8 to conclude the game. Their final few offensive possessions were, to put it bluntly, terrible. There were two flirtations with shot clock violations and some really awful decision making by young players.
It’s very easy to point to small elements as problems in a game this close, but FSU was able to score 19 points off of Carolina’s 12 turnovers. The majority of that came in the struggles of the first half, but the Seminoles were also much better at the free throw line than the Heels, shooting 73% there.
Carolina was led by Caleb Love’s 13 points before he ultimately fouled out very late in the game. Armando Bacot was not far behind with 12 points as the most effective big man in light blue in the game. Kerwin Walton hit all three of his three-pointers on his way to 11 points in the second half to give the Heels a fighting chance.
Seeing how UNC played, being down 11 at halftime almost felt like a blessing. Florida State really let them hang around instead of burying a team that was playing very poorly. They almost lived to regret that and probably would have if Carolina had just been a shot or two better in the final three minutes of the game.
Roy Williams’ squad will now await their NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday to find out what seed they will be when they travel to the bubble in Indianapolis.