CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Sean May's highest scoring output as a collegiate moved North Carolina closer to a pair of No. 1's.
May scored 22 of his career-high 32 points in the second half as second-ranked North Carolina fought off a feisty Florida State team to post a 91-76 victory in an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.
The victory kept the Tar Heels (25-3, 13-2 ACC) at the top of the conference standings. With a win over arch-rival No. 6 Duke on Sunday, North Carolina would secure the top seed in the ACC Tournament by virtue of its first outright conference title since 1993. It could also likely secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"We got the Maui Invitational championship earlier this year and that was one of our goals," said reserve swingman David Noel, who handed out a career-high eight assists. "Another one of our goals was the ACC regular season, ACC tournament and on and on and on."
The Seminoles held a 54-52 advantage with 13:22 left, but May hit two jumpers as part of a 15-2 burst by North Carolina, which never was headed thereafter. May helped maintain the Tar Heels' lead down the stretch by scoring 11 of the team's last 15 points.
"The biggest thing that we have to improve is mentally and emotionally," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We've had more issues in dealing with growing up and maturing than any team that I've ever had. They're good kids, but they are youngsters that are still trying to figure out how we play as a team in order for us to compete on the level with ACC caliber teams. We're learning. We're growing. But we've taken so many baby steps."
May also grabbed 10 rebounds to record his seventh consecutive double-double. Raymond Felton also collected a double-double with 15 and 10 assists and freshman Marvin Williams came off the bench to add 17.
"Anytime you have great guards like Raymond, David and Jackie (Manuel) who were doing a great job of driving and penetrating and Marvin stepped out and hit some shots so things opened up inside for me," said May, who shot 13-of-15 from the floor. "It was the easiest 30 points I've ever had in terms of all I had to do was catch the ball and lay it right in. I wasn't making too many shots over people and I don't think I even had to use a post move tonight. Our guards did a really good job of driving and finding me for open looks."
Florida State (11-18, 3-12) kept the game close in the first half and early part of the second half by continually answering any North Carolina run.
"It's never a surprise if any team in the ACC hangs with us," Felton said. "We just didn't bring the intensity like we normally do. They got a lot of open shots and knocked them down."
When the Tar Heels jumped to a 39-30 lead on a dunk by May with under four minutes to go in the first half, the Seminoles responded with a 14-2 spurt to close out the half. Isaiah Swann connected on a pair of 3-pointers and Adam Waleskowski added another during the burst.
"I am pretty happy with myself, but I am not completely satisfied," May said. "That first half I didn't give my team what they wanted. I came in the locker room and told the guys we got 20 more minutes, a new half, let's put that half behind us."
Al Thornton scored 18 points and Waleskowski chimed in 13 for Florida State, which has lost its last nine games.
North Carolina was once again without leading scorer Rashad McCants, who has missed the last three games because of an intestinal disorder. He did workout with the team earlier in the day and has hopes of returning in time for the ACC Tournament.
"Rashad is not ready to play, the doctors have not told me he is ready to play, he is not practicing," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "Our basketball team played their butts off in there, Rashad McCants is an extremely important part but we can only say so many times, when he's healthy he will be back."