DENVER (Ticker) -- Raymond Felton woke up just in time to put Air Force to sleep.
Felton scored all of his 12 points in the second half as sixth-seeded North Carolina rallied for a 63-52 victory over No. 11 Air Force in the first round of the Atlanta Region.
After missing his first five shots from the floor, Felton drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to cap an 11-0 run. His second shot from the arc just beat the shot clock and gave North Carolina (19-10) a 49-44 lead with 10:22 remaining.
"It was a prayer," Felton said. "I was about three feet behind the 3-point NBA line and I just went up and made a big shot. It was lucky, if you want to call it that, but it was a big shot."
Making their NCAA Tournament debut under coach Roy Williams, the Tar Heels clamped down defensively in the second half. They held Air Force (22-7) to one basket during an 11 1/2-minute stretch that ended when A.J. Kuhle hit a meaningless 3-pointer with 1:15 to play.
"On the defensive end, we did a much better job in the second half," Williams said. "The last 10-12 minutes of the game, we played good defense."
"Turnovers in key situations were pretty much the undoing of us," Air Force coach Joe Scott said. "I give them credit for causing our turnovers. They continually put themselves in position to knock the ball away and get steals."
Sean May led the Tar Heels with 14 points and Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams added 10 apiece. Back in the tournament after a two-year absence, North Carolina will play third-seeded Texas in the second round.
"This was the biggest game of my entire career," Jawad Williams said. "My freshman year, we went 8-20; last year, we made it into the NIT, and finally making it into the NCAA Tournament is a dream come true. I'm just happy we got the win."
Four Falcons' starters - Kuhle, Nick Welch, Antoine Hood and Tim Keller - played all 40 minutes. But Scott downplayed the fatigue factor.
"When we took a six-point lead, fatigue did not seem to be a factor at all," he said. "We were playing well with 13 minutes left in the game, so that made me stick with what we were doing because it was working well."
A three-point play by Joel Gerlach gave Air Force a 44-38 lead with just over 13 minutes left, but May completed his own three-point play 37 seconds later to halve North Carolina's deficit and spark the 11-0 run.
"The biggest play of the game to me was when we were down by six and Sean May made a basket inside and was fouled and the score was cut to three," Roy Williams said. "We came down and scored and cut it to one."
Manuel dunked off a turnover and Felton connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Tar Heels ahead to stay.
Everyone on North Carolina shaved their heads on the eve of the tournament, but Air Force held the Tar Heels to 32 percent (10-of-31) in the first half and bolted to a 28-23 lead.
"It was a team unity thing," Jawad Williams said. "We knew if we did this, we could do anything. There are a lot of guys that look real silly."