No. 4 UNC dominant in rebounding and routs Florida State 92-67 in ACC Tournament quarterfinals

The North Carolina bench celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The North Carolina bench celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Armando Bacot scored 14 points and grabbed 10 of his team’s 48 rebounds to Florida State’s 22, and fourth-ranked North Carolina rolled into the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinals with a 92-67 victory Thursday.

Bacot got the double-double with a rebound on his final play before being pulled midway through the second half, and unanimous ACC player of the year RJ Davis scored a game-high 18 points.

“Their effort, energy, attention to detail defensively was good,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “And for us to dominate the boards on both ends, I thought that was a huge key for us in allowing them to be successful out there.”

Winning their sixth in a row, the Tar Heels flexed their muscles on the boards, at one point grabbing four offensive rebounds on the same possession late in the first half — a sequence Bacot described as “a ton of fun.” By halftime, the Seminoles had just six.

“Rebounding is not about size and athleticism, it’s about heart and will and positioning,” said Harrison Ingram, who also had 10 rebounds. “We’ve been working on it every single day.”

A combination of rebounding domination and some timely shooting — as Florida State went ice cold from the floor — helped UNC (26-6, 18-3 ACC) pull away. Shooting for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the ACC’s regular-season champions face Pitt on Friday night with a spot in the final on the line.

“We’re fortunate … to have a chance to be in the semifinals and to play against one of the outstanding programs in the history of college basketball,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said after his team beat Wake Forest 81-69. “We’ll be ready to go.”

No. 11 Duke await UNC in the final in a rematch from last week and a third meeting between the Tobacco Road rivals in the past two months. UNC has not reached an ACC Tournament final since 2018 and hasn’t won it since 2016, also the last time it was in Washington.

“It’s something none of us have experienced other than the coaches,’ said Bacot, who’s in his fifth season in Chapel Hill. ”We feel like it’s right there for the taking, so that’s why we’ve been playing so hard.”

FSU didn’t pose much of a roadblock to UNC, which also got 14 from Cormac Ryan, who went 3 of 4 from 3-point range fresh off his leading performance at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Primo Spears, playing in his old home arena after playing last season at Georgetown, led ninth-seeded Florida State (17-16, 10-11) with 17 points.

“We got beat by a team that played better than us,” longtime coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They were much more aggressive, much more physical.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: Missing the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season could bring some questions about how the program is trending. The struggles came after the Seminoles reached the Sweet 16 twice and made one trip to the Elite Eight sandwiched around a successful 2019-20 season that would have brought a high seed before the tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

North Carolina: The selection committee is watching, and there’s no rust on a team that looks every bit like a national championship contender. The Tar Heels were sharp in their first game since Saturday, and even if they may need another top team to falter in its conference tournament, is on track to get a No. 1 seed if they keep playing like this the rest of the week.

UP NEXT

UNC is again expected to be a heavy favorite against Pitt, with much more Carolina blue expected in the stands as the weekend goes on.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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