UNC coach Roy Williams hangs his head after Florida State rolled to a 30 point lead over North Carolina in the second half. ROBERT WILLETT - firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 8:04 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There were no words. After his team’s 90-57 defeat at Florida State on Saturday, North Carolina coach Roy Williams walked into the Tar Heels locker room, where the team gathered for its routine post-game prayer. Then Williams walked out, without saying a word.
What could be said after this?
The No. 3 Tar Heels’ defeat at the Donald L. Tucker Center was the most lopsided of Roy Williams’ nine seasons at UNC. The Heels shot a season-worst 37.3 percent, had a season-low eight assists and a season-high 22 turnovers.
Before Saturday, UNC’s past three games here had all been tense and tight, full of drama in the final moments. This time, though, the crowd counted down the final seconds in unison, as if celebrating on New Year’s Eve.
When the buzzer sounded, Florida State students and fans poured onto the court to celebrate a victory that was never in doubt. Williams and the majority of his team weren’t around to witness the scene.
With 14 seconds to play, Williams led his assistant coaches and most of his players past the Florida State bench and off the court. Williams knew a court-rushing was coming, he said later, and he wanted to protect his players.
Williams couldn’t do much else for them on Saturday. The Tar Heels’ defeat was historic – one of the most stunning in school history and one that Williams described as the worst coaching performance of his career.
“We had no answers for them on the court,” Williams said. “I had no answers for them on the sideline. I did the worst job of coaching the team that I’ve ever done. The worst job of preparing a team to play that I’ve ever done.
Forty-three seconds in, Florida State senior guard Deividas Dulkys scored the game’s first points on a 3-pointer from the left side. UNC never tied it, and the Seminoles (11-6, 2-1) never trailed.
And Dulkys never cooled. He made 8 of his 10 3-point attempts – many of them coming wide open, without a defender around – and finished with a career-high 32 points. When Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton called Dulkys to the bench in the final minutes, he received a long, loud standing ovation.
The Tar Heels (15-3, 2-1) entered the week leading the nation in scoring but they found no open shots and no space to penetrate against the Seminoles’ aggressive defense. FSU, meanwhile, entered the game with a sputtering offense and a proclivity for turnovers.
“Princeton’s defense must be a [heck] of a lot better than ours if they can hold them to 10 points in a half and we give up 8,000,” Williams said, referencing FSU’s loss against Princeton on Dec. 30.
UNC point guard Kendall Marshall, who committed a career-high 7 turnovers, called the Tar Heels’ performance “embarrassing.” A couple stalls down in the locker room, forward John Henson said, “We didn’t come ready to play today. So that’s what happened.”
Florida State led 36-28 at halftime and then began the second half on a 30-8 run that pushed the Seminoles’ lead to 30 with 11:28 to play. Williams sat and watched most of the mayhem in silence. The more the margin grew, the more shocking UNC’s meltdown seemed.
But, UNC sophomore forward Harrison Barnes said, “The way we were playing, it was no surprise.”
Barnes and his teammates questioned their own mental toughness, their poise and their effort.
“We didn’t match their intensity,” said Dexter Strickland, the junior guard at UNC. “… I think we started to back down.”
Williams had difficulty explaining what happened to his team. Twice during his postgame press conference he shook his head and said, “There’s not a lot to say.”
About 20 minutes later, Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton sat in the same chair. His session with reporters over, Hamilton held the final box score in his hand. He looked down at it and his team’s margin of victory caught his eye.
“Thirty-three?” Hamilton said with an incredulous tone, to no one in particular. “What do you think happened?”