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The No. 2 Tar Heels, coming off an embarrassing loss to last-place Clemson, win 95-67 behind 36 points from Joseph Forte.
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Every championship team needs a crutch, a player to lean on when times get tough. There's no doubt North Carolina has one of the nation's best.
Joseph Forte scored 36 as No. 2 North Carolina rebounded from its first loss in 21/2 months with a 95-67 victory over Florida State on Thursday night.
"I feel he's national player of the year," North Carolina's Brendan Haywood said. "Everybody wants to give it to the guys down the road (at Duke), but nobody is helping their team win more basketball games than Joe Forte right now."
The Seminoles surely didn't have an answer for the 6-foot-4 sophomore guard.
"He's got a great midrange game," said Florida State's Adrian Crawford, one of several players who tried to guard Forte. "I've watched a lot of college basketball through the years, and I haven't seen anyone that comfortable inside the three-point line in a long time."
The victory kept North Carolina one game ahead of No. 4 Duke in the race for the ACC regular-season title with three games left. They meet at the Smith Center on March 4.
"The Clemson loss was behind us when we got to the locker room and realized that we dropped an egg," point guard Ronald Curry said. "We couldn't let that loss hang over us. All of our goals are still reachable. If that would have taken us out of the (ACC) race it would have been totally different."
Kris Lang added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Tar Heels, while Haywood's five blocks tied him with Rasheed Wallace's 93 in 1994-95 for the most in a season at North Carolina.
Adrian Crawford and Delvon Arrington led Florida State with 12 points each.
The Seminoles (7-19, 2-11) beat No. 20 Maryland and played No. 9 Virginia to a three-point game last week, but fell to 1-10 this season against ranked teams after shooting 39 percent and turning it over 17 times.
The loss moved Florida State within one of its most defeats since going 5-20 in 1951-52 and back into a last-place tie in the ACC with Clemson.
It was Forte's third 30-point game this season -- all in the Smith Center. He had a career-best 38 against Tulsa in the second game of the season.
The Tar Heels started out sluggish after coming off one of their worst outings of the season at Clemson, managing just 17 points in the opening 12 minutes before going on their first-half run behind Forte.