Since its surprising 0-2 start in ACC play, North Carolina has looked dominant in three straight wins. That probably doesn’t surprise Florida State, which has been dominated by Tar Heels for most of the last decade.
Coach Roy Williams’ fifth-ranked club will try to win a 10th straight game against the Seminoles and continue its rise up the ACC standings on Wednesday in Tallahassee.
North Carolina (17-2, 3-2) was the nation’s unanimous No. 1 before opening its conference slate with a stunning home loss to Boston College on Jan. 4, and the Tar Heels dropped to 0-2 in league play for the first time since 1996-97 after a loss at then-No. 4 Wake Forest a week later.
But they’ve won three games by at least 17 points since, including last Wednesday’s 94-70 rout of then-No. 10 Clemson. While Tyler Hansbrough had 20 points and 10 rebounds for North Carolina, guard Wayne Ellington led the way with a season-high 25 points and a career-high seven assists, continuing his recent surge.
Ellington’s previous season-best was 23 points on 7-of-11 3-point shooting in the previous game, an 82-65 win over Miami on Jan. 17. He’s 17-of-29 (58.6 percent) from the field in the last two games after shooting just 43.2 percent in the season’s first 17 games.
“I’ve been working all season long,” Ellington said. “I just continued to have faith in getting shots up and not letting missing shots do anything to my confidence. I think it’s worked for me. I figured sooner or later I’ll be able to break through it, so I didn’t let it affect me in any way.”
Florida State is still looking to break through against the Tar Heels, having lost nine consecutive games in the series and 20 of 23 dating back to the 1996-97 season. North Carolina eliminated the Seminoles (16-4, 3-2) from last season’s ACC tournament with an 82-70 win.
But the Tar Heels needed overtime to win in Tallahassee last Feb. 3, riding Hansbrough’s 22 points and 21 rebounds to an 84-73 win.
Florida State held Ellington to eight points in that game and standout North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson went down early with an ankle injury, but Hansbrough and Danny Green (19 points) picked up the slack.
“You can stop one player, and they’ve got three other guys that are capable of going for 30 on you,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We’re going to have to give all of them the equal amount of respect.”
North Carolina, meanwhile, can focus a good amount of its defensive pressure on Florida State guard Toney Douglas. The senior has averaged 24.3 points in his last four games, leading the Seminoles to three wins.
Douglas shot 8-of-11 from the field and scored 21 points in a 73-62 win at Virginia on Saturday, but he has averaged 11.4 points on 24.3 percent shooting in five career games against North Carolina. He was 3-of-20 from the field in last season’s home loss to the Tar Heels.
Florida State has gone 8-2 at the Tucker Center this season, with the only losses against Pittsburgh and Duke - currently two of the top three teams in the country. But since the 2001-02 season, the Seminoles are 5-7 when hosting a top-5 opponent.
This game is the teams’ only regular-season meeting, the third time in the last four seasons they’ve only been scheduled to face off once.