TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) -- Ian Miller, Montay Brandon and Aaron Thomas combined to score 56 points but it wasn't enough in Florida State's 81-75 loss to North Carolina at the Donald L. Tucker Center Monday night.
The triumph was the Tar Heels (18-7, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) seventh in a row while FSU fell to 15-11 and 6-8 in the mighty ACC.
The Seminoles were within two scores with 21 seconds to play but couldn't capitalize on some missed UNC free throws by converting on the offensive end. The Tar Heels finished the game by scoring 75 points in the final 30 minutes of action after going into the locker room at halftime down 36-33.
When it came down to it, UNC's depth coupled with FSU's quick turnaround following Saturday' win at Wake Forest proved to be the difference. "We'll work through it," FSU coach Leonard Hamliton said afterwards, citing his team's lack of depth at this point in the season as they "hand we've been dealt."
Miller has been FSU's ace off the bench all season but Hamilton elected to start the talented senior at point guard. The Charlotte, N.C. native responded by scoring 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
He was aided in his offensive effort by back-court mates Thomas and Brandon. Thomas finished with 16 points while Brandon poured in a career high 18. Okaro White was limited in his minutes as he battled with foul trouble and finished with four points.
"We are not quite as deep as we have been in the past," Hamilton said. "For us to lose our most experienced senior player, it probably was a little more challenging than it would have been in other circumstances."
Defensively, the Seminoles couldn't defend the paint against Kennedy Meeks, who dropped 23 points on the hosts and grabbed seven rebounds. Marcus Paige had just four first-half points but erupted for 16 in the second frame to finish with 20 from his point-guard spot.
Brice Johnson (14) and J.P. Tokoto (10) also scarred in double figures, which helped counteract the fact that UNC standout James Michael McAdoo was held scoreless before fouling out in the second half. The Tar Heels shot 51.6 percent from the field for the game while FSU finished 43.1 percent in the same category.
North Carolina -- one of the nation's top rebounding teams -- grabbed 42 boards to the `Noles' 33 but FSU had just eight turnovers. Carolina had six blocks and scored 50 of its 81 points in the paint.
FSU built a 21-6 lead to start the game on Thomas' reverse lay-up before a North Carolina timeout at the 11:13 mark of the first half.
But UNC chipped away in a foul-plagued opening frame and cut the deficit to a one-score game with less than 30 seconds before the break. Gilchrist's nifty pass to a cutting Brandon was then fouled by a Carolina 3-pointer as time expired for a 36-33 FSU advantage at halftime.
Despite eight early points from Miller in the second half, Carolina tied the score at 53-53 and then built a 70-62 lead on Paige's 3-pointer with 6:03 left to play. Brandon's lay-up and free throw then made it a five-point contest before White and Thomas combined for four free throws to cut the score to 70-69.
A J.P. Tokoto dunk and two more points-in-the-paint from Meeks gave the `Heels a 74-69 but the visitors couldn't convert on two separate one-and-one opportunities from the charity stripe to extend the advantage and Brandon's put-back made it a 74-71 UNC lead with 30 second left.
Paige then hit a pair of free throws and the Seminoles couldn't cut it any closer than a 76-72 score down the stretch as UNC hit five of its six final free throws.
"We got beat by a team that had a little more firepower than we had," Hamilton said.
A tough task now awaits the `Noles on the road as they travel to play at Pitt Feb. 23. Tip-off from the Peterson Events Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPNU.