CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina (15-8 overall, 9-5 ACC) did it, and impressive enough, winning it for Roy Williams 900th win wasn't the determining factor but the will to compete pushed them to defeat top-ranked Florida State (14-4 overall, 10-3 ACC), 78-70.
This UNC team's identity is still a mystery to the lot; the first half, the Heels, shot 25% from the floor, equaling its lowest percentage in a half this season but the second half showcased precisely who this team can be, completely dominating. Carolina shot 50% in the second half - It was the second time this season UNC trailed by double figures in the second half (12) and won.
Freshman Walker Kessler had an incredible game that shined in front of fans for their first game back since the pandemic. Kessler's rise wasn't an easy one. At the beginning of the season, Kessler dealt with two 14-day quarantine restrictions that resulted in his delay in learning the system and playing time. Also, Kessler dealt with knee ailments. Post-game, Williams stated that Kessler kept his head down and continued to grind. His focus on his contribution to the team is a highlight Williams loves and looks for his kids he recruits,
"He's a great kid; he cares so much. He cares so much that he beats himself up, and I think that we've tried to get him out of that. I've said many, many times give me a kid that cares, that's a kid, who's going to really get better." Williams said.
"But to answer, I'm just as happy as I can be for him. He's one of those guys that I always say, "Do the best you can because you never know when you're going to be called on," and he was called on today."
Along with Kessler's season and game-highs in points (20), rebounds (8), offensive rebounds (5), and blocks (4), three other freshmen made Carolina history. Kerwin Walton (13), RJ Davis (12), and Caleb Love (12). UNC's young team won despite its four leading scorers this season, entering the game combining for just six field goals.
Defeating No. 11 Florida State was UNC's first win over a ranked team since beating No. 11 Oregon in 2019 in The Bahamas. UNC has lost its previous ten games against AP-ranked opponents. With this win, Carolina is tied for 5th in the ACC.
Up next, North Carolina faces a desperate Syracuse team looking to push away from the bottom pack of the standings. The two teams meet Monday at 7 pm on ESPN.