HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Minutes after their latest win, the North Carolina Tar Heels were still talking about their last loss.
That was the Tar Heels' first game since Wednesday night's 71-70
loss at Duke (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP), a game that ended with North Carolina failing
to get off a shot on its last possession.
"Needless to say we feel a heck of a lot better than we did
Wednesday night," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I
talked a great deal about getting that bad taste out of my mouth.
We did some nice things today."
Like take over in the second half on both ends of the court.
McCants had 11 of his 15 points in the second half for North
Carolina, while Felton had 14 of his 16 points and seven of his 10
assists in the final 20 minutes.
The Tar Heels committed only four turnovers in the second half
while forcing the Huskies into 13 of their 22.
"We gave in to great defense. We came apart," Connecticut
coach Jim Calhoun said. "We weren't mentally tough enough to stay
in our offense and the turnovers led to fast-break baskets."
And it was McCants, Felton and classmate Sean May, who had 16
points and 13 rebounds, who made the difference.
The performances by the junior stars enabled the Tar Heels
(20-3) to leave the court at the Hartford Civic Center with smiles
on their faces instead of the stunned looks they wore following the
last-play breakdown at Duke.
"It's big, it just shows how much more mature we are as a team
and it showed our poise," Felton said. "We just came off a loss.
Everybody was still kind of upset about the situation, but we had
to come out and play against a big-time team in a big-time place."
Marcus Williams had a career-high 18 points for the Huskies
(15-6), who had won three straight and four of five.
"Their wings did a great job denying and they were able to get
right into their offense," said Williams, who didn't practice much
during the week because of strep throat. "Playing Felton the whole
game and pushing the ball took a lot out of me. I'm tired."
Connecticut led 34-31 after a first half that was played at the
pace the Huskies were looking for. The second half was more to the
liking of the Tar Heels, who lead the nation in scoring at 91.2
points per game.
Felton hit a 3-pointer with 12:10 left to break the game's final
tie and give North Carolina a 51-48 lead. That started a 16-6 run
that was capped with McCants' only 3 of the game that made it 64-54
with 7:54 to go.
McCants started the game by missing seven of his first nine
shots, but the 3 capped a run where he made four of six shots from
the field and scored nine points in as many minutes.
When Connecticut closed within 67-63 on a driving basket by
Williams, McCants was the key to the Tar Heels' 8-0 run -- although
he had only two points during the spurt.
He came up with an offensive rebound on the missed front end of
a 1-and-1 by Marvin Williams and fed it back to him for a basket.
Then he made a pass to Williams on the wing and the freshman hit a
jumper as the shot clock expired that made it 73-63 with 1:48 left.
McCants was also bothered by a bug.
"I've been sick for the last couple of days, so it was just
tough for me to get out there and keep my composure and not get
down on myself," he said. "But my teammates had confidence in me
and kept me in the game and kept giving me good looks and I knocked
Jawad Williams had 17 points for North Carolina, which leads the
Josh Boone had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the
Huskies, who played without leading scorer Rashad Anderson. The
junior swingman is hospitalized as he recovers from an infection in
his leg. He is averaging 13.8 points per game and leads the Huskies
with 43 3-pointers.
"Obviously we're going to miss our leading scorer but that's no
excuse," Boone said. "Maybe down the stretch their experience was
a factor, but it was more the turnovers."
Calhoun said Anderson was "improved today but it's been a tough
go in the hospital right now."
Calhoun wanted to make sure his team realized it had a chance to
beat the team he considers the best in the country.
"I thought we competed as well as we possibly could but we came
apart ballhandling-wise. I told them they let them take something
away from you," he said. "It was 22 turnovers. That's what they
took away from you."
This is North Carolina's first 20-win season since 2000-01 and
the 47th in 95 seasons for the Heels.