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Off the cuff: If Nassir Little wants to go pro after one year - or at least wants to be picked high up in the NBA draft - now is the time for him to turn it up.

He did that against Florida State Saturday as he scored 18 points, some in dramatic fashion, and came down with a season-high eight rebounds.

Little said that Coach Roy Williams told him the team needed him to be a big player for the Heels with the season dwindling down.

Little has not been consistent and he's been banged up a bit lately. Coach Williams said he suffered a sprain against Virginia and a bruised sternum at Wake Forest.

He hasn't been the typical one and done - if that's what he will be. He has shown that he's not ready for the NBA and could use another year or two in college. But the NBA drafts on potential and he'd still get a big payday later this year if that's what he wants.

If he leads the Tar Heels to a national title, maybe Carolina fans will forgive him for going pro but not so if he goes after a so-so season.

It used to be that players who struggle with school are the ones most likely to turn pro. Little made all As in high school so it will be interesting to see what he does.

It will certainly hurt a little less if he continues to play like he did Saturday.

To his credit, Little deflects attention to himself and comes across as a team player. He says he just wants to be ready to contribute and all the other things you'd want him to say.

Little, talking about the team rather than himself, said that the loss at home to Louisville was "an eye-opener for us." He said since that game, the Heels have been locked in at practice and brought energy and effort in the games.

Carolina is 10-1, with the only loss to Virginia, since losing by 21 to Louisville.

Tar Heels 77, Florida State 59
Carolina breaks open up close game

North Carolina held Florida State without a bucket for more than six minutes to open up a close game with a 16-1 run in the second half en route to a 77-59 home win. (2/23)

No. 16 ranked Florida State trailed just 56-52 midway through the second half but then the Seminoles went cold. Meanwhile, Carolina got the rebounds and methodically pulled away, extending the lead to 19 points at 72-53.

Luke Maye started the run for the Heels with back-to-back three pointers, one from the corner and one banked in from Carrboro. Cam Johnson added a three during the run but the Smith Center got the loudest after a Johnson missed three. His three banged off the rim right into the hands of freshman Nassir Little who powerfully dunked it in with one quick motion.

Little had perhaps his best game of the season with 18 points and a season-high eight rebounds.

"Nassir was really big for us," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "Nassir getting to the backboard is something that really helps us."

Coach Williams said that he simply thinks Little is healthier than he had been recently. "He felt better," he said.

The Tar Heels outrebounded the Seminoles 47-32, including a 10-rebound advantage in the second half.

"We boxed out as well as we have all year," Little said. "Crashing the offensive glass helped us too."

Maye and Johnson each had double-doubles for Carolina as Maye scored 15 points and hauled in 11 rebounds while Johnson scored 18 and pulled down 10 rebounds.

It looked like the Tar Heels would make it a blowout in the first half after Johnson drained a three from the right wing to make it 31-18. But Carolina went scoreless for more than three minutes while Florida State quickly scored 11 straight points to get back in it.

The Heels led just 37-34 at the break despite a 20-6 points in the paint edge.

An 11-4 run in the first four minutes of the second half prompted a Seminole timeout when Coby White went coast to coast for a layup that made it 48-38.

Three triples by three different Florida State players got the visitors without four before Carolina went on that 16-1 run to all but wrap up the victory.

Carolina improves to 22-5 and 12-2 in the conference to remain tied for first. Florida State, which had won eight ACC matchups in a row, falls to 21-6 overall and 9-5 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels host Syracuse Tuesday night.

Box score

UNC's Nassir Little, who scored 18, is congratulated by Kenny Williams. (UNC Sports Information photo.)

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