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UNC hangs on late against Florida State for first 9-0 ACC start in 23 years

Defense got tough when they had to.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 teams have been thwarted by unranked teams on the road left, right, and center this season, but UNC has remained immune to it to this point. Tallahassee is always a difficult place to go play, and FSU definitely made it tough on the Tar Heels for the vast majority of the 40 minutes on Saturday. In the end, UNC was able to play just enough defense and get just enough offense to hang on for a 75-68 win.

Carolina trailed 41-36 at halftime thanks in part to 19 Florida State points off turnovers. The Heels were careless with the ball and the Seminoles were making them pay for it. UNC’s tough three-point defense was also failing them as Florida State hit seven three-pointers before halftime. FSU shot 50% from the field in the first half to UNC’s 39%, but racking up 11 pre-half fouls was definitely a bad omen.

Florida State hit just two threes after halftime and Cormac Ryan got hot from distance to hit three, giving the Heels a huge push to begin the second half. UNC went to the free throw line 24 times and made 19 of them while FSU made just 45% of their shots from the charity stripe. Florida State did finish the game with 26 points off UNC’s 17 turnovers, which largely kept them in the game.

RJ Davis was, as he has been all season, excellent offensively. He scored 24 points even on a day when his shot from three wasn’t falling like we’re accustomed to. He was responsible for four of the team’s turnovers, a team high, but he very much helped make up for that with his points scored. Behind him was Elliot Cadeau with 16 points. The freshman had a very good showing until things went a little sideways late, but he was 8-9 from the free throw line and had six assists. Speaking of players doing what they’ve done, Harrison Ingram was once again the team’s best weapon on the boards with 17 rebounds. He finished the game with 13 points and three threes as well. All starters except for Armando Bacot finished in double figures.

The win marks the first time in 23 years that UNC has started ACC play 9-0. Their win streak now sits at 10 games since they lost to Kentucky over a month ago. All nine of their ACC opponents have scored fewer than 70 points. The superlatives for this team are abundant, but what they are doing feels really special. They deserve all the credit in the world for doing it against tough teams, both in and outside of the ACC, and not just racking up wins against the soft parts of the conference.

Carolina will try to extend the streak on Tuesday when they visit Georgia Tech in Atlanta.