Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Javan Felix put up eight of his 12 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, enabling Texas to hold on and knock off No. 14 North Carolina by an 86-83 score at the Smith Center.
Felix hit two big baskets down the stretch to help the Longhorns (10-1) record their most significant win of the season despite squandering an 11-point halftime lead. The sophomore point guard's jumper off a screen snapped a 77-77 tie with just under two minutes left, and his clutch 3-pointer on Texas' next possession proved to be too much for the Tar Heels to overcome.
Isaiah Taylor added a team-best 16 points and Jonathan Holmes posted 15 along with 10 rebounds in the victory, the Longhorns' sixth straight since their lone loss of the season, an 86-82 setback to BYU on Nov. 25.
"I think our guys showed a lot of grit, different guys at different times," Longhorns head coach Rick Barnes remarked.
Marcus Paige racked up 23 points and seven rebounds for North Carolina (7-3), which came in riding a three-game win streak that included marquee decisions over Michigan State and Kentucky. Leslie McDonald, playing for the first time this season after having his eligibility restored by the NCAA on Wednesday, hit four 3-pointers in a 15-point effort.
Trailing nearly the entire game, the Tar Heels got back in it via a 12-2 run that featured a pair of McDonald triples to knot the contest at 72-72 entering the final four minutes. Felix sent Texas back in front with a successful shot from beyond the arc, though UNC drew even again moments later on a Kennedy Meeks 3-point play that made it 77-77 with 2:14 remaining.
Felix then accounted for five straight points to give the Longhorns the upper hand, and the Tar Heels were down 84-78 after Taylor hit two free throws with 25.2 seconds showing. The Texas guard was whistled for a Flagrant 1 infraction for swinging his elbow when being fouled, however, giving North Carolina two technical foul shots and the ball.
Paige made both bonus attempts before draining an off-balance three that cut the lead to one, and the Longhorns' Demarcus Holland missed two from the line when fouled with 7.2 seconds left. He alertly tipped in the second, however, for an 86-83 edge prior to Paige's long-distance try rimming out as the buzzer sounded.
"It was a little further out than we would have liked it, but I got a clean look at the basket and it just rimmed out," said Paige. "We ran that exactly how it was designed."
The Longhorns took control of the game with a 10-0 spurt that turned a 2-point deficit into a 29-21 advantage midway through the first half, and were up by as many as 13 points during an opening period in which they dominated on the glass. Texas outrebounded the Tar Heels by a 28-13 margin over the first 20 minutes en route to owning a 53-42 cushion at the break.
"I'm really proud of our guys because one, we came out with the attitude we wanted from the beginning," said Barnes. "I thought Demarcus Holland did a great job of setting that, especially for us offensively."
A Meeks layup followed by a Paige 3-pointer closed North Carolina within 61-56 with 11 1/2 minutes remaining, but a 7-2 Texas run that was highlighted by treys from Holmes and Holland put the Longhorns up by a 70-60 count with 8:08 left to play.
McDonald was forced to sit out UNC's first nine contests for an impermissible benefits violation ... North Carolina starting center Joel James was knocked out just 21 seconds in after injuring his right knee while colliding with teammate J.P. Tokoto ... Texas has now won five of the last six meetings between the schools, including an 85-67 decision in Austin last season, but the Longhorns had been 0-2 all-time in Chapel Hill prior to Wednesday's result ... Holland ended with 15 points, giving Texas four players in double figures for the ninth consecutive game ... The Longhorns will host fifth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday.