NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Freshman Rashad McCants scored 21 points and Jawad Williams added 17 and 10 rebounds as North Carolina bounced back from a disappointing loss to post a 63-59 victory over St. John's in the consolation game of the Holiday Festival.
The Tar Heels (8-3) fell to Iona on Friday in the first round and lost starting center Sean May for eight weeks due to a broken foot. But McCants, who tallied just three points in the second half against Iona, hit two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to provide the final margin.
"We had this experience last year," Tar Heels coach Matt Doherty said. "We lost to College of Charleston and had to play St. Joseph's the next day. I told the team that the team that puts the disappointment of the night before behind them the quickest has a better chance of winning."
Williams hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded in the first half and North Carolina took a 32-29 lead into the locker room. Williams missed Friday's loss with a stomach virus.
Freshman Raymond Felton chipped in 11 points and nine assists for the Tar Heels, who improved to 3-1 at Madison Square Garden this year.
"Jackie Manuel's ankle wasn't very good, Raymond wasn't feeling very well, Jawad is back off a virus," Doherty said. "I was real proud of my team. We've had some big wins this year - Kansas in this building, Stanford in this building and Florida State."
Marcus Hatten tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Storm (5-3), who dropped their third straight game. Hatten and freshman Elijah Ingram missed tying 3-point attempts in the final 80 seconds.
"You get to know yourself a little better and your teammates a little better," Red Storm coach Mike Jarvis said. "There were times today that we didn't finish, but basically played like a team."
North Carolina capitalized on St. John's turnovers, by converting 14 into 19 points. Meanwhile, St. John's forced 11 turnovers but scored just three points.
The Tar Heels were leading by one point when they embarked on a 6-0 burst. Freshman Byron Sanders, who missed all nine shots from the floor, made a pair from the line. Felton nailed a shot from the arc and Williams converted 1-of-2 free throws to give North Carolina its largest second-half lead, 51-44.
Ingram contributed 14 points for the Red Storm, hitting 3-of-6 from the arc, and Kyle Cuffe pulled down 12 boards.
"I know we are going to be able to build upon today," Jarvis said. "There are a lot of things we will be able to take from this week and this experience. This will make us a very good basketball team as this year progresses."
North Carolina matched its win total from all of last season.