TALLAHASSEE — For a while, everything was clicking for Florida State.
There was life and hope inside the Tucker Center for the first time in months.
But the goodwill the Seminoles built up against North Carolina slowly dissolved. FSU's defense fell apart in the second half and could not hold on to a 15-point first-half lead as North Carolina beat the Seminoles 81-75 Monday for its seventh straight victory.
Tar Heels freshman Kennedy Meeks scored a career-high 23 as North Carolina rallied for its biggest comeback of the year.
Meeks' effort overcame James Michael McAdoo's subpar game. McAdoo, who had scored double figures in 17 consecutive games, fouled out without a point. It was the first time the junior was held scoreless since his freshman year.
"(Meeks) started probably five or six games for us but hadn't played very well the last two or three games," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "He does give us some inside scoring and I think a huge part of it, too, was our guys passing it to him inside, bounce passes inside.
"He was big for us."
FSU (15-11, 6-8 ACC) entered the game at No. 59 in the RPI and desperately needed the win against North Carolina (ranked No. 27) to bolster its chances for the NCAA Tournament.
Ian Miller made his first start of the season and led the Seminoles with 22, including five 3-pointers. His hot shooting helped give FSU a 21-6 lead. Montay Brandon finished with career-high 18 points and Aaron Thomas added 16.
Williams earned his 300th win with the Tar Heels (18-7, 8-4) and passed former coach Dean Smith as the fastest to reach 300 ACC wins. Williams did it in 386 games, while Smith needed 406.
The Seminoles lost starting forward and former Clearwater High standout Okaro White and starting center Michael Ojo for most of the half after they each picked up two fouls. Center Boris Bojanovsky also sat for most of the first half after landing awkwardly.
North Carolina took full advantage of a smaller FSU lineup as the Tar Heels scored 22 in the paint in the first half.
"We got beat by a team that had a little more firepower than we did," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It was just too tough for us to overcome."
The trend continued in the second half, when North Carolina shot 67.9 percent from the field.
But it was the hot shooting of guard Marcus Paige that pushed UNC over the top. Paige scored 20, with 16 coming in the second half.
UNC went ahead 57-55 with 10:05 left and never trailed again.