The North Carolina Tar Heels came into the 2011-12 season with tons of talent, experience and star power, and the sky was the limit as the expectations of being the best in the nation was laid upon them.
In one game, the Florida State Seminoles sent the Tar Heels back to Chapel Hill with more questions than answers about just how good the team is.
FSU (11-6, 2-1) outplayed third-ranked UNC (15-3, 2-1) in almost every category in the stat sheet as well as one category that doesn't appear on the sheet—hustle.
The Seminoles never trailed in this game, and from the start it appeared that FSU was feeling the upset as soon as the ball left the official's hand for the jump.
On FSU's first offensive possession, senior guard Deividas Dulkys rose up and drained a three-pointer to start the onslaught.
On the second FSU possession, senior guard Luke Loucks splashed a three as well, and one minute into the game FSU was up 6-2.
With a basket by Michael Snaer, and more three-pointers by Loucks and Dulkys, the Seminoles sprinted to an early 19-11 lead.
Junior forward John Henson kept the Heels in it early, and after three consecutive baskets Carolina trailed 25-17.
The two teams traded baskets to end the first half, and FSU took a 36-28 lead into the half.
Coming out of the halftime break, I expected to see a classic ACC game, with both teams going toe-to-toe and one winning off a late big basket.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
FSU opened up the second half by mounting a 17-2 run, out-hustling the Heels on both the offensive and defensive ends. Carolina shot 1-8 from the field to begin the second half and had good looks that just wouldn't fail, giving FSU an enormous amount of momentum, and they responded with deadly consequences.
After Barnes hit a layup to stop the FSU run, Carolina trailed 53-32 with 14:33 remaining.
Apparently, FSU didn't appreciate the run ending and went on yet another. After another three-pointer by Dulkys and baskets by Bernard James, a three by Jeff Peterson, a basket by Okaro White and multiple free throws by Ian Miller, FSU pushed the lead to 67-34 off a 14-2 run.
It appeared all the fight was gone from the Tar Heels at that point.
FSU finished the game by winning many hustle plays and playing the best defensive effort on Carolina in the last two years.
Senior guard Deividas Dulkys ripped into the Tar Heels, finishing the game with 32 points and hitting 12-14 from the field, including 8-10 from three-point land.
Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes led the Heels with 15 points, but only made 5-13 shots. Senior forward Tyler Zeller scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and junior forward John Henson scored 10 points, but only grabbed three rebounds.
There is no doubt that it is gut-check time for the Heels.
The ACC is not a guarantee for anyone, and for Florida State to write the book on how to exploit Carolina is not good for anyone in this organization. This game was an embarrassment in every way. Simply put, North Carolina took a huge step backwards. At the same time, FSU took a giant leap forward.
UNC will get a chance to redeem itself on the road, as they travel to Blacksburg, VA, to play the Hokies of Virginia Tech on Thursday night at 9:00 p.m.
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