GAME NOTES: The North Carolina Tar Heels will attempt to continue their surge up the Atlantic Coast Conference standings on Monday night when they venture to the Donald L. Tucker Center to take on the Florida State Seminoles.
After starting its ACC slate a mere 1-4, UNC has caught fire with wins in six straight tilts to improve to 17-7 overall. The Tar Heels most recently held off Pittsburgh at home on Saturday afternoon, 75-71, giving them four wins against Top 25 teams this season (Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky).
FSU had been trending in the wrong direction heading into its latest bout with losses in five of its previous six. However, it got back on the winning track with a 67-60 road victory at Wake Forest on Saturday to improve to 15-10 overall and 6-7 in the ACC. The Seminoles return home for this tilt, where they've gone 8-3 on the season.
UNC has a comfortable 45-12 advantage over FSU in the all-time series. The Tar Heels won all three matchups during the 2012-13 season, including in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, 83-62.
The Tar Heels used a 15-5 run midway through the second half over the weekend to extend their lead to 12 points with under nine minutes to play, and while they saw that advantage dwindle to one-possession on several occasions, they never gave up the lead and held on for the home win. They outshot Pitt from the field, 44.3 percent to 40.6 percent, and were paced by James Michael McAdoo with 24 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field to go with 12 rebounds. Marcus Paige knocked down 5-of-6 from 3-point range for 18 points and Brice Johnson came off the bench to tally 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
On the season, UNC has impressed on both ends of the floor, shooting 45.5 percent from the field for 75.8 ppg, while allowing just 67.6 ppg on 39.5 percent shooting. Its strengths extend to its stellar margins in the rebounding (+5.5) and turnover (+1.8) margins, although its poor free-throw percentages (.623) has hindered it in close games. Paige scores a team-best 17.1 ppg with 56 3-pointers, and also adds 4.5 apg and 1.5 spg. McAdoo shoots 48.5 percent from the field for 15.3 ppg to go with 7.0 rpg, 1.5 spg and 1.0 bpg. Johnson (10.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.4 bpg) and J.P. Tokoto (8.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) have also been solid in the paint, and Leslie McDonald (10.5 ppg) rounds out a balanced scoring attack.
The Seminoles faced a six-point deficit at the half of their most recent game, but after shooting only 26.9 percent from the field in the first half, they improved to a lofty 64 percent in the second stanza to surge ahead and eventually earn a seven-point win. Ian Miller was a spark plug off the bench with 25 points on 8-of-12 from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Aaron Thomas registered 19 points and 14 rebounds, which helped the team earn a convincing 41-27 advantage on the glass, while Boris Bojanovsky had just five points but grabbed eight boards and blocked six shots.
The majority of FSU's success this season has come thanks to its stout defense, which yields just 64.6 ppg on 38.6 percent shooting. Its offensive attack has been solid as well, putting up 71.0 ppg on nearly 47 percent shooting itself. The squad relies heavily on its bench effort, with Thomas (13.5 ppg) and Miller (13.3 ppg) doing their scoring damage in a reserve role. Both players shoot greater than 38 percent from 3-point range and better than 82 percent at the foul line. Okaro White (12.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg) mans the paint and makes field goals at greater than 50 percent efficiency.
Although UNC has been vulnerable on the road this season (3-4), its hot play with March just around the corner has been very encouraging. Even with FSU riding high after a victory, expect the Tar Heels' superior talent to get the best of the Seminoles in Tallahassee.
Game Date and Time