NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Quarterfinal-Florida State vs North Carolina

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- There may not have been a single turning point in North Carolina's 92-67 domination of Florida State in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, but rather a gradual surge -- a tide of Carolina blue rising up and engulfing the Seminoles during a 20-7 run to end the first half, turning a 26-23 battle into a 46-30 blowout.

But even in a rising tide, there are indicators: the possessions that encapsulate the dominance. For North Carolina, they came late in the run. Seminoles wing Jamir Watkins got a half-step on Cormac Ryan, but there was Elliot Cadeau with perfect help, stretching all of his generously listed 6-foot-1 frame to cut Watkins off and force a shot-clock violation. Ryan let out a yell, and the UNC faithful that dominated the "neutral" site followed in kind.

One possession -- or five, depending on how you look at it -- later, Armando Bacot was yelling, too, finishing off the Tar Heels' four-offensive rebound sequence with a layup. Primo Spears' 3-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer may have slowed the bleeding momentarily, but it couldn't stop the inevitable.

"Those are plays that have nothing really to do with talent, that's just effort," Ryan said. "We sat down and guarded for 30 seconds, which is always good, and you get down there, and you basically out-tough the other team on the glass. When you get four rebounds, those are huge energy plays. Armando, Harrison [Ingram], everyone's in there just physical as can be, and that was a big swing for us."

Carolina's explosion came from all angles, from up and down the roster, from faces old and new -- either new to North Carolina or new to college basketball, period. RJ Davis led the way with 18 points and fellow Chapel Hill veteran Bacot added 14 points and 10 boards, his sixth career ACC Tournament double-double. Only Tim Duncan and Carroll Youngkin have more.

"We knew we had an advantage on the boards, and I think [Ingram] early on, just how he was on the boards really pushed me, [Jalen Washington] and all of us to even get more," Bacot said. "You talk about that last play, that was a lot of fun, all of us just getting rebounds and keeping the ball alive is a ton of fun."

As for the newer faces, Notre Dame transfer Ryan finished with 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting. Sophomore Seth Trimble added 12, tying a career high, including a highlight dunk to punctuate things.

Long before the Tar Heels blew things open, though, there was the youngest contributor of all, Cadeau, leading the way. The acclaimed freshman filled the box score -- eight points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals and a block -- but that still understates his true impact. There he was, stripping Baba Miller at half court one possession and diving on the floor to earn a jump ball, his knee bloodied in the process, the next. Making his postseason debut, Cadeau played with savvy that belies his age.

"I think all our runs start on the defensive side, so just getting stops allows us to get in transition, and we're our best in transition," Cadeau said. "When people see that, we just play harder, and when we get stops we play harder. It started on the defensive end."

That type of defensive effort hasn't always been present for the ACC regular-season champions. During a stretch between late January and early February, the Tar Heels lost three of five and, according to, had the nation's No. 123 defense. Since then, though, the Tar Heels have won five straight, powered by the nation's seventh-best defense. Cadeau has been a poster child for the improvement.

"Elliott every day is understanding how important and how good of a defensive player he can be, and that leads to him diving on loose balls and getting extra possessions, climbing into the ball, boxing out, talking on defense," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "So you just continue to see that growth in him, and it's been fun to watch."

"Fun to watch" also describes the final 26 minutes of the game from North Carolina's view after a tight first 14. Overall, the Tar Heels dominated the boards, 48-22, nailed eight of 19 3-pointers, held a 26-6 fast-break points advantage and a 46-24 edge in the paint.

"I thought they were much more aggressive, much more physical, and when you get in a tournament like that, teams who have that level of confidence, who are in sync together with their teammates and with their system, I think, play a game like what they played against us today," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

The Tar Heels certainly won't get ahead of themselves, even as a potential title game matchup with Duke -- and/or a potential NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed -- loom.

"One of the things that we do talk about is focusing on what is real, and what is real now is our preparation to prepare us to play either Pitt or Wake Forest," Hubert Davis said. "All year we have focused on the preparation and the process. If we continue to do that, the results will take care of itself. That's been our focus all season and will continue the rest of the season."

For all of the accolades RJ Davis (ACC Player of the Year) and Bacot (four-time All-ACC) have accumulated in their storied careers, an ACC Tournament title is conspicuously absent. In their effort to change that, step 1 is down. Expect the same approach in step 2 Friday.

"We feel like it's right there for the taking," Bacot said. "That's why we've been playing so hard, and we all just want to end the season off right"