For 36 minutes, Florida State was trading punches with a North Carolina team swinging desperately for its first ACC win.
In the final four minutes, FSU stopped responding.
The Tar Heels shut the Seminoles out for the final 4:16, using a game-closing 8-0 run to nab a 77-72 win over FSU at the Donald L. Tucker Center on Saturday.
While neither team led by more than six points throughout a game that bounced back and forth - especially through high-octane second half - P.J. Hairston's dunk with 3:53 to play gave UNC the lead for good at 73-72 just before the Seminoles went cold. FSU was 0-for-4 from the field with three turnovers after Okaro White's pair of made free throws gave the 'Noles a 72-69 lead with 4:16 left.
"When the game was on the line they made us pay," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Down the stretch we made some mistakes … they did a very good job."
Florida State's last hope disappeared as Michael Snaer missed a deep, game-tying three-point attempt with 16 seconds left. The ball was mishandled during the possession and Snaer admitted following the game that he forced the effort.
"I just made a bad decision at the end," Snaer said.
North Carolina, which entered Saturday's game at a surprising 0-2 in ACC play, dominated the glass, outrebounding the Seminoles 41-19. The margin aided 19 second-chance points as UNC had 19 offensive rebounds alone.
"That's the ballgame right there, when you lose the rebounding game by 20 or 21 or whatever it was, you should have lost the game by 10-15 in my eyes," said White, who netted 15 second-half points after going scoreless in the first 20 minutes. "It's just very frustrating, coming back, getting energy, getting the crowd into it, then they come back, you're getting stops but they're getting offensive rebounds, it just sucks the life out of you."
North Carolina was also effective inside in its late-game emergence, scoring 22 points in the paint in the final half. After a solid job of denying post touches in the first half, Florida State was allowing open looks for dunks and lightly contested layups down the stretch.
Snaer pinned the late skid on a lack of defensive technique.
"When it got down the stretch, they got tougher and we stayed the same," he said.
In spite of the rebounding deficit, it was Florida State's outside shooting that kept it in the game. FSU went 11 of 22 from three-point range, a higher percentage than it shot from two (13-28).
White led FSU scorers with his 15 while sophomore Terry Whisnant netted 14 and Terrance Shannon added 12. Snaer, the Seminoles' leading scorer, was held to nine points on 3 of 9 shooting.
Hairston scored a career high 23 for the Tar Heels.
FSU look to bounce back as they take on Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.