North Carolina will have to avoid looking past Florida State with its biggest game of the season looming on the horizon.
Doing so could result in all five starters finding a place on the bench early again.
The fourth-ranked Tar Heels hope to continue their dominance of the Seminoles when the teams meet Sunday afternoon in Tallahassee, Fla.
Although his team came away with a 91-69 victory Thursday over Boston College, it took some maneuvering by North Carolina coach Roy Williams. Midway through the first half after watching a big lead disappear, Williams pulled all five starters off the court and ripped his players.
“When Coach takes us out five at a time, we know we did something wrong,” point guard Ty Lawson said. “He was cursing us out, basically.”
The curious move paid off as the Tar Heels (20-1, 5-1 ACC) tightened up defensively and eventually bridged the first and second halves with 21 straight points to put the game away.
Tyler Hansbrough scored 18 points, Deon Thompson added a career-high 17 and Lawson finished with 16 and a career high-tying 10 assists for North Carolina, which has won two straight by a combined 38 points since losing to Maryland on Jan. 19.
“It does make you mad, which it should,” Hansbrough said. “That’s why Coach took us out, to get on us and tell us what we’re doing wrong. Hopefully, we’ll go back in there and we won’t do that again.”
As important as North Carolina’s highly-anticipated matchup with archrival Duke on Wednesday is, the result of that game won’t matter nearly as much if the Tar Heels falter against Florida State (13-9, 2-5). Third-ranked Duke holds a one-game lead over North Carolina in the conference standings.
“It’s important for us, just to continue on that right track and continue to play our style of basketball and continue to stay focused and be ready,” Tar Heels guard Wayne Ellington said.
North Carolina has dominated the series with the Seminoles, winning six straight and 17 of the last 20 meetings. Florida State’s last win came at home on Jan. 22, 2004.
The last time the Tar Heels played on Super Bowl Sunday, they beat Florida State 81-60 in Tallahassee on Feb. 6, 2005. Later that day, New England beat Philadelphia 24-21.
Hansbrough, the ACC’s leading scorer (21.8), was held to seven points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field in his last meeting with the Seminoles, an 84-58 victory on Jan. 7. He has averaged 15.3 points in three games against them.
Florida State enters this contest having lost two straight and five of six, including an 89-80 defeat at Virginia Tech on Tuesday.
Although the result was another loss, the Seminoles felt much better about themselves after scoring 56 second-half points Tuesday. That was a huge step for a team that had averaged 62.2 points in the previous four games.
“We feel really good,” forward Matt Zitani said. “It’s kind of weird. We’re 2-5 and we lost two in a row, but we came out of the second half of the Virginia Tech game and we felt we were out of this funk.”
Florida State has lost three straight against ranked teams since beating No. 25 Florida on Nov. 23.