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March 3, 2013
Heels go for five in a row
The Tar Heels just continue to win and now have won four in a row in the ACC heading into the final stretch run.
North Carolina will be looking to make a huge leap in the conference standings in the last week of the regular season, in which it has a chance to secure the second seed in the ACC tournament.
Some faithful would find it hard to believe after this roller coaster of season, where the Tar Heels have been blown out in some games, looked dominating in others, and started out 0-2 in ACC play, and now have a 10-5 record in league play.
Thursday night, the Tar Heels had to travel down to Littlejohn Coliseum, a place where teams have struggled in the past with the Tigers.
However, North Carolina stroked it from the outside, leading by as much as 17 points in the second half in cruising to a 68-59 win over the Tigers.
Now the Tar Heels take on a Florida State squad seeking revenge against an earlier loss against UNC in Tallahassee that seems like it was played a decade ago with the recent changes in the team.
Tip off is set for 2:00pm eastern time on Sunday.
FSU might not be playing for a berth in the NCAA Tournament but Leonard Hamilton will likely have his team pumped up to upset the Tar Heels on Sunday as they try to end their season on a positive note.
The last time these two foes faced each other, the Seminoles were on top of the ACC with a 2-0 record while the Tar Heels were on the bottom at 0-2.
Times are a little different now, as Florida State looks to upset North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a place where the Tar Heels have only lost once this year.
Florida State is coming off a win against Wake Forest this week, as they defeated the Demon Deacons 76-62. Michael Snaer had 24 points to lead all scorers, while Okaro White contributed 13 points.
As a team, the Seminoles held Wake Forest to 32.7 percent shooting and had 12 blocks in the game while out-rebounding the Deacons 41-17.
With a win on Sunday, the Tar Heels will push their winning streak to five in a row while continuing to help its chances of earning one of the top seeds in the conference tournament and a Thursday bye in Greensboro.
The five game winning streak would be the longest so far for the season for the Tar Heels, as UNC started the season winning four in a row before losing to Butler in the Maui Invitational.
In the last meeting against FSU, North Carolina still had the bigger, older lineup as its starting rotation.
But it was the bench that stepped up for the Tar Heels down in Tallahassee, as Jackson Simmons and P.J. Hairston made some critical shots at the end of the game.
Hairston has been a true blessing for the Tar Heels offense since he entered the starting lineup.
The game in Tallahassee may have been his launching point in showing the Tar Heel faithful and Roy Williams that he could step up and be a leader for this team.
Hairston had 23 points in the last meeting, going nine of 14 from the field and hitting four three pointers. The Tar Heels will need more hot shooting from Hairston this time around against the 'Noles.
North Carolina shot 48.3 percent overall and 40 percent from behind the arc against the Seminoles, but didn't shake away until Marcus Paige sealed the deal with critical free throws at the end.
Williams knows that Florida State can be a deadly team from the outside to go along with their length and athletic ability.
The Tar Heels will have to defend the three again this time around and try to repeat the same performance they had against Snaer, who is one of top clutch scorers in the league but only had nine points in that game.
The UNC bench might come into play against Florida State, especially the big men on the bench for the Tar Heels.
Williams has trimmed the minutes down on his bench, as Leslie McDonald was the only player off the bench to have double digit minutes against Clemson.
As mentioned before, Simmons came up big in the last meeting and contributed eight points for the Tar Heels, while Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson contributed four points each; all players that are coming off the bench for UNC right now.
With the limited minutes, the bench will have to come in and try to produce at the same level as the starters, both offensively and defensively.
The Tar Heel guards will have to continue their strong play, against two very good guards for the Seminoles in Snaer and Ian Miller.
Dexter Strickland and Paige have stepped up their play in the four game winning streak, as Strickland scored a team leading 16 points against Clemson and has four or more assists in all the games.
Paige's confidence is soaring---he's in double figures in three of the last four games---and he's been dishing the ball to his teammates as well.
One stat from the last meeting in Tallahassee that stood out was the rebounding margin, as the Tar Heels took a 34-18 advantage on the glass.
UNC limited the Seminoles to only five offensive rebounds while the Tar heels had 14 themselves.
If the Tar Heels can control the outside shooting, defend the paint, and rebound the ball---something that has decreased since the lineup change---UNC should be able to pick up another win Sunday, while continuing to polish its NCAA Tournament resume and preparing for the postseason.