CHAPEL HILL — The celebration of North Carolina’s win at Duke on Wednesday continued well into the early morning hours of Thursday on Franklin Street.
It ended much quicker for the basketball players that achieved that momentous victory.
In fact, the Tar Heels weren’t even off the bus from the trip back home to Chapel Hill before coach Roy Williams told them to put it behind them.
“I talked to them about (how) we did some good things, we got a W, but we’ve got to keep playing or you give it back,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “I think I probably harped on that more than I ever have.”
His message clearly registered with his players, who showed no signs of a letdown in their return to the court Saturday.
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels held No. 16 Florida State to just 30.5 percent shooting and grabbed 15 more rebounds than the taller Seminoles on their way to cooling off the ACC’s hottest team. Their emphatic 77-59 win at Smith Center ended FSU’s eight-game winning streak and kept UNC in a tie atop the league standings.
“Coming off a big win, it’s easy to kind of get fat and happy,” said graduate forward Cam Johnson, who picked up his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. “We recognized that and wanted to make an emphasis not to. Overall, to come out with a big-time win was good for us.”
It’s a victory that followed a similar pattern to the one at Duke four days earlier.
Although the Tar Heels didn’t shoot as poorly from 3-point range as they did in going 2 for 20 at Cameron Indoor Stadium — missing 11 of their first 14 attempts from distance before Johnson and Luke Maye finally heated up late — they again compensated by pounding the ball inside.
UNC outscored the Seminoles 28-12 in the paint, increasing its advantage to a whopping 90-40 over the past two games combined.
The Tar Heels (22-5, 12-2 ACC) also did some strong work on the glass by outrebounding FSU 47-32 with Maye joining Johnson in double figures with a team leading 11 rebounds.
“That’s something we emphasize all the time,” Williams said of the rebounding. “You should do things better if that’s what you emphasize the most.”
The disparity on the glass was especially pronounced during a second half in which UNC pulled down 10 more rebounds than its opponent on the way to a 40-25 scoring advantage.
It was an edge that was built with two major spurts — a 12-4 run to start the period that extended a three-point halftime lead to 10 and a more decisive 14-1 stretch in which the Tar Heels held FSU (21-5, 9-5) without a field goal for 8½ minutes.
The latter was punctuated by a highlight reel dunk by Nassir Little in which he came flying out of the right corner to jam home a Johnson miss. It was one of two spectacular dunks for the talented freshman, who tied for the team lead with 18 points.
He went 6 of 11 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the free throw line while adding eight rebounds in 23 minutes in his best performance in nearly a month.
Coincidentally, it came on the heels of another talk from Williams.
“He and I had a conversation (Friday) and I told him to focus on getting to the backboards and doing those kind of effort things,” the UNC coach said. “That was big for us early in the game when he got in. He’s like everybody. If you do something and do it well once, you start feeling better.”
Little wouldn’t go into specifics about the nature of his discussion with Williams, other than to say it wasn’t a pep talk. Both he and his coach, however, were adamant in their belief that the former five-star recruit could be a major factor if the Tar Heels are to make a deep run into March.
They’re already on a roll, having won 10 of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming against Virginia — one of the two teams (along with Duke) that currently share the league lead.
“I came in jur being aggressive, trying to attack,” Little said, adding that his contribution “makes us a more dangerous team.
“It shows how deep we are. You have a guy coming off the bench being able to produce like that, it shows how much versatility we have.”