CHARLOTTE -- Top-ranked North Carolina wasn't going to stay cold forever. Florida State knew it but reckoned if it could just keep pace and build up a lead before the sure-to-come hot streak, it'd have a decent shot of winning Friday's first quarterfinal of the ACC tournament.
The No. 1 Tar Heels (30-2) shot past the Seminoles 82-70, sinking 14 of their last 20 field goals as FSU (19-14) went cold. The Seminoles didn't go quietly, but UNC matched them shot for shot and stepped into today's semifinals.
Never miss a local story.
The Tar Heels will play Virginia Tech at 1:30 p.m. today for the right to go to the championship game.
"We settled too much for outside jump shots in the first half," shrugged UNC coach Roy Williams. "By going inside, we also opened up some things outside.
"Whether it was as smooth as I wanted or not, probably never get there."
UNC turned the ball over 10 times and tied FSU at 30 in the rebounding battle, cause for a slight bit of alarm. But what they did well was shut down Jason Rich, the Seminoles' best scorer.
Although he pumped in a game-high 23 points, Rich flashed hot and cold. He scored nine points in the first seven minutes and then went scoreless for the next 23 before finding his lost touch.
"I think we were just a little anxious," Rich said. "We were missing layups and shots we normally make."
When Rich quieted, UNC seized the advantage. The Tar Heels wiped out a short-lived 11-6 FSU lead but struggled to the half, getting a boost when Wayne Ellington knocked in a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Still, in a slump and watching Williams on the sideline -- at one point, frustrated by two no-calls on Danny Green, Williams was about to sling his jacket but hesitated, instead folding it and handing it to an assistant -- the Tar Heels regrouped. They came out for the second half and turned to their own star -- unanimous ACC Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough.
The massive junior had eight points in the first half but six came on outside jumpers as he was constantly battling FSU's Ryan Reid in the paint. Hansbrough got his nose to the floor after halftime, though, connecting on a three-point play and then hitting two free throws for a 43-35 lead.
The rest of the team followed the leader, shutting down the lanes and working the rebounds into its effective speed game. Ty Lawson still wasn't 100 percent, but he had enough to keep getting the ball downcourt immediately after missed FSU baskets, turning into Tar Heel points.
The teams traded field goals, but the Seminoles began missing, and when Hansbrough got the ball on the other end, he either made the shot or got fouled. Eight of the big man's 22 points came from the line in the second half, after he'd gone three straight periods without a free throw.
"I wasn't really focused on (getting to the line)," he said. "It's just something that happens. It's not like we weren't going to play aggressive."
Ellington had 19 and Marcus Ginyard had 10 to aid the still-ailing Lawson, who finished with eight. Ralph Mims (15 points) and Toney Douglas (18) finally began helping Rich out, but the damage was done. Florida State never got over the 10-point cushion Hansbrough inspired and went down swinging.
The Seminoles are hoping for a kind word on Sunday as they hope for the NCAA tournament, but by their own admission, probably won't get it.
"One of those games where we need to make more plays, make more baskets," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We're a longshot."
North Carolina seeks to lock down a No. 1 seed and hopefully an NCAA tournament spot close to home, although Williams said he didn't know there was a regional spot in Raleigh, N.C., until last week.
"May I never hit another golf ball if this is a lie, but I didn't know where it was," Williams said. "We'll play wherever they send us."