CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- North Carolina relied on an unusual weapon to end its skid against North Carolina State - defense.
The 15th-ranked Tar Heels held the Wolfpack without a point for a key six-minute stretch en route to a 68-66 Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
North Carolina (13-4, 3-3 ACC) ended a four-game slide against North Carolina State, its longest since a nine-game run for the Wolfpack from 1972-75. The Tar Heels avoided a third straight home loss in the series for the first time since 1952-54.
In its previous four games, North Carolina allowed three opponents to shoot over 50 percent. NC State (11-5, 4-2) continued that trend, shooting 58 percent (15-of-26) en route to a 38-34 halftime lead.
After the Wolfpack's Levi Watkins nailed a 3-pointer for a 47-47 tie with 13:22 left, the Tar Heels clamped down over the next six-plus minutes and scored 10 straight points. NC State struggled to run its offense and was forced into several turnovers as North Carolina turned to a 1-3-1 half-court trap.
"I think the key to the game - and again this will be a stuck record - but I thought we were so much more intense with our defense in the second half," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "We forced 13 turnovers in the second half."
The Wolfpack awoke from their shooting slump and pulled within 65-63 on freshman Engin Atsur's 3-pointer with 67 seconds to go. Rashad McCants answered with a bank shot 34 seconds later for a four-point cushion.
Raymond Felton scored 14 points to lead North Carolina and McCants chipped in 13. The Tar Heels held an opponent below 70 points for the first time in its last six games.
"That is just something we really emphasized on, playing defense and shutting people down," McCants said. "I think that it was a step forward for us."
NC State had seven of its 13 steals in the first half, including three straight in one stretch, and forced 18 turnovers for the game. But the Wolfpack were sloppy with the ball and star Julius Hodge and Marcus Melvin each had six turnovers.
"From our standpoint, there were times when we were just too careless with the ball," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "We just need to understand that every possession is valuable."
The Wolfpack played without starting guard Scooter Sherrill, who has an ankle injury. Melvin scored 15 points and Hodge added 12 after a season-low two-point effort in Saturday's win over Georgia Tech.
"It was attitude and effort," Tar Heels center David Noel said. "We had to pick up our effort and change our attitude about how we were going to play defense, and that is what we did."
McCants failed to reach the 20-point plateau for the first time in four games and Tar Heels center Sean May was held in check with 11 points and 10 boards. North Carolina had its lowest output since a 61-56 loss to Kentucky on January 3.