CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina – Just before being greeted by a parade of chest bumps from his teammates on Saturday, one after another to celebrate the important victory North Carolina had secured and the substantial performance they had achieved. ‘he had produced, Walker Kessler stopped to take a few glances around the Smith Center and soak up the scene.
A moment to savor, for sure.
“It was the first time I had experienced something like this,” the 7-foot-1 freshman said later, shrugging and rubbing his arms. “I have chills and I smile a little.”
Kessler delivered the game of his young career to help the Tar Heels defeat Florida State 78-70 in ninth place. UNC defeated the first-place Atlantic Coast Conference team after coming off a 16-point deficit, which helped coach Roy Williams to 900 career wins.
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It all happened in front of an audience for the first time this season – around 3,200 fans, many of them UNC students, were allowed into the building – and ultimately became another unpredictable turning point in this season. eventful for North Carolina.
Kessler came off the bench and delivered the best results of the season with 20 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots, an unlikely contribution that fueled the Tar Heels (15-8 overall, 9-5 ACC).
North Carolina followed their worst loss of the season, Wednesday night’s stumble against Marquette, with their best win of the season here defeating the Seminoles (14-4, 10-3).
Kerwin Walton added 13 points and RJ Davis and Caleb Love had 12 points each. North Carolina spat 21 turnovers, 14 of them in the first half while falling behind 39-23, but sank 27 of 30 free throws as they stabilized.
Next, Kessler, freshly drenched in the locker room, wore a T-shirt commemorating Williams’ historic victory that was soaked in places with wet spots.
“All these people cheering us on, I think that definitely gave us a lot of energy,” Walton said. “I don’t know how many people there were in there, but it felt like it was a lot of people by the way they were screaming.
RayQuan Gray’s 17 points and Scottie Barnes’ 12 points dominated the state of Florida.