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Off the cuff: On occasion, Carolina just needs to congratulate their opponent and move on.

Yes, the Tar Heels could have played better defense but the Wolfpack, especially DJ Horne, was hitting even heavily contested shots.

North Carolina players and head coach lamented not being able to increase the pace of the game and, thus, not getting easier buckets in transition. But State was hitting nearly 60 percent of its shots for most of the game. Like Carolina, they went cold late in the game and ended at 55 percent shooting.

The only thing that could have saved the Tar Heels in a game like this one would have been shooting better from the three-point line.

Carolina probably took too many threes but the Heels had to over the last five or six minutes. Unfortunately for them that's when they were the coldest. The Tar Heels were two of 17 from three in the second half before Harrison Ingram, who was three of nine from three, hit a meaningless three in the closing seconds.

The Heels were pretty good from beyond the arc in the first half, going five of 12 or better than 41 percent. It actually was impressive that Carolina came back so quickly after falling down by nine in the first half. A three by Ingram and two threes by RJ Davis over a three-minute span helped the Heels tie it at 28-all.

Carolina ended up having the lead on three occasions for only a little over a minute. But the Tar Heels had to feel pretty good with a 40-39 lead at the half. State had shot lights out and seemingly was playing about as well as they could and still trailed.

But after shooting a respectable 50 percent in the first half, Carolina went cold and managed only 28 percent of their shots in the second half.

Carolina is going to have to get better shooting from Cormac Ryan if the Heels are to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. Since the impressive performance at Duke, and a respectable three of four from three against Florida State, Ryan has gone two for 14.

The officiating has been weird in virtually all ACC Tournament games with officials going deep in games without making calls and then calling a bunch of fouls in the second half. That hurt the Heels as their physical play in the second half quickly led to fouls.

In the first three and a half minutes of the second half, the Tar Heels were called for more fouls than they had been the entire first half. State went to the line early and often and converted on 22 of 29 free throws. The Pack took six more foul shots than the Heels. Carolina almost always shoots more free throws than opponents.

N.C. State 84, Carolina 76
State outshoots UNC to cap ACC run

(Photo by UNC Sports Information)

After winning four games in four days, including one miraculous overtime, N.C. State seemed destined to win it's first ACC Tournament title since 1987. And that's just what the Wolfpack did, outshooting North Carolina 55 percent to 37 percent in an 84-76 win in D.C. (3/16) 

"I'm on top of the world," said Raleigh native D.J. Horne, who scored 29 points to pace the Wolfpack. Horne propelled State to an early nine-point lead at 20-11.

Carolina was able to catch up over the next six minutes and even took a 40-39 halftime lead when Cormac Ryan hit a three from the left corner at the buzzer.

But D.J. Burns, the tournament's most valuable player, backed in and scored to give State a 45-43 lead with 18:13 left in the game. The Wolfpack, which led 33 minutes of the game, never trailed again.

It stayed close with the Pack's lead fluctuating from three to eight points until breaking it open at the end. UNC's RJ Davis scored on a 15 footer to pull the Heels within five at 67-62 with 6:05 to go.

After a Carolina turnover, Casey Morsell answered with an open three to put State in command at 70-62. Free throws by Horne gave the Wolfpack its largest lead to that point at 72-62 with just over four minutes to go.

The Tar Heels pressure defense forced several turnovers down the stretch but they couldn't capitalize as the Heels missed 12 of their last 13 shots, several of which were open threes. Carolina hit just three of their 18 three-point attempts in the second half and finished a dismal eight of 30 from beyond the arc.

"Our pace wasn't up to par," said UNC's RJ Davis, who had a game-high 30 points but it took him 26 shots to get there.

UNC coach Hubert Davis blamed the defense for not getting stops in order to give the offense an opportunity to get fastbreak points. "We just couldn't guard them tonight," he said adding that the Heels will once again go back to its mantra of defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball as they head into the NCAA Tournament.

State, now 22-14, will get the ACC automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. "Winning five games in five nights is a miracle," an emotional Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “We've got to get some rest because, guess what, we're going to the NCAA tournament.”

One big reason for that is the 280-pound Burns, who hit his first three-pointer of the season and scored 20 points going nine of 12 from the floor. "I allowed him to get the ball where he wanted," said Armando Bacot, who scored 18 himself. "When he gets it there, it's hard to stop him."

UNC falls to 27-7 having now lost seven of the last 10 times it has played in the ACC Tournament finals. The Tar Heels now wait to see if they can still secure a No. 1 seed with opening games in Charlotte. 

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