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Updated: Sunday, February 13, 2005 8:33 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(2) North Carolina 77, (14) Connecticut 70

HARTFORD, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Raymond Felton shook off the last play in Wednesday's game against Duke and a sluggish first half to help North Carolina put away Connecticut.

Felton had 14 points, seven assists and four steals in the second half as second-ranked North Carolina posted a 77-70 victory over No. 14 Connecticut in a nonconference matchup.

"I think he (Felton) was still feeling the effects of the other night. It hurt him," said North Carolina coach Roy Williams about the 71-70 loss to Duke.

On the last play of that game, Felton dribbled the clock down, didn't penetrate when the opportunity presented itself and then passed to David Noel on the right sideline with less than five seconds left. Noel lost the ball out of bounds as time expired.

"We discussed it as a team the next day and moved on," Williams said. "I think he could have driven on that last play - it was one of the options - but he thought he saw something else."

"He got us back in the (Duke) game by scoring seven points down the stretch," North Carolina center Sean May said. "He willed us back into that game, just like today."

After being held to just two points and three assists in the first half, Felton spearheaded a 16-6 run midway through the second half that provided the Tar Heels (20-3) with a 64-54 edge with eight minutes to play. He contributed eight points, including two 3-pointers, two assists and a steal during the six-plus minute spurt.

"I was feeling down (after the Duke game), and talked about it (with May) and put it behind me," Felton said. "I'm the point guard and its my responsibility. I wanted to come out and pressure the ball (in the second half) and make things happen."

His defense against Connecticut point guard Marcus Williams was a key after intermission. Williams, who scored 12 points and had just one turnover in the first half, committed six of the Huskies' 13 turnovers in the second half.

"We picked up the pressure (in the second half)," May said. "Raymond got into Marcus a little more, forced some turnovers and we ran more."

"The game was decided because we weren't mentally tough enough to stay within our offense," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "Just as we made some terrific passes, in the second half we made some horrendous passes that led to fast-break layups, dunks, etc. The difference in the game was just turnovers by us, and lack of mental toughness."

Williams, who leads the Big East and is second in the country in assists at 7.5 per game, finished with 18 points and five assists.

"We didn't have any poise. We just threw the ball around," Williams said. "They were denying the wings and taking away what we had in the first half. Credit team defense. They were phenomenal."

"Felton appears to be as good a player as there is in the country," Calhoun said. "Today, he was impeccable. I thought in the first half, Marcus matched him. In the second half, Felton won the battle, certainly."

The Huskies pulled within 67-63 with four minutes left on a bank shot by Williams, but a perfectly executed play after a timeout resulted in a dunk by Rashad McCants off a back cut. A follow shot by Jawad Williams on North Carolina's next possession pushed the lead to eight with 2 1/2 minutes to go.

Freshman forward Marvin Williams finished off the Huskies with a 3-pointer over UConn's Charlie Villanueva as the shot clock expired for a 73-63 lead with 1:45 to play.

"Needless to say, we feel a lot better than we did Wednesday night," Roy Williams said. "To me the key to the game was the second half when we executed much better on the offensive end and we got turnovers. That was the key thing that killed us the other night in Durham - 23 turnovers. To only turn it over four times in the second half today was big for us."

North Carolina turned the ball over 11 times - the second fewest in a game this season.

Connecticut (15-6) played without leading scorer Rashad Anderson, who has been hospitalized all week to treat a skin abscess on his right leg. The 6-5 junior guard had been coming off the bench in the last five games, averaging 15.4 points on 54 percent shooting.

"We missed his leadership, his scoring," Connecticut forward Denham Brown said. "He's a junior. He gives us leadership on the court. We just hope he gets better and can rejoin us soon."

Josh Boone, who had scored just 40 points in his last six games, had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Connecticut, which hung close by blocking 16 shots to North Carolina's 1. But Villanueva scored just two points in 27 minutes.

May had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Jawad Williams scored 17 and McCants chipped in 15 for the Tar Heels, who shot 5-of-12 from 3-point range in the second half.

"I love what Sean has done in the last two games," said Roy Williams of May, who had 23 points and 18 rebounds against the Blue Devils. "He's been huge. We have to have him rebound. Jawad is not a rebounding (forward)."

"May is a great player," Calhoun said. "He can play power forward because he can shoot the ball, and he's also a very good passer, but you don't see it that much ... because they decide not to use it. He's a very intelligent player, has a lot of skills and real good basketball sense."

Behind a physical inside presence, the Huskies controlled the pace in the first half and took a 34-31 lead at the break. Both teams shot below 40 percent and combined for 16 turnovers.

Meeting for the fourth consecutive season, North Carolina has won the last three by a combined 13 points.


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