CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Freshman Kendall Marshall had nine points and a season-high 16 assists to help No. 23 North Carolina beat Florida State 89-69 on Sunday.
Fellow rookie Harrison Barnes scored 17 points to lead the Tar Heels (17-5, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led almost the entire way and ripped through the Seminoles' stingy defense to win for the 10th time in 11 games.
North Carolina's 89 points and 56 percent shooting were the most allowed by the Seminoles (16-7, 6-3) this season, as the Tar Heels led by nine points at halftime and by double figures almost the entire second half.
Everything started with Marshall, who was thrust into a leading role with the abrupt departure of junior point guard Larry Drew II from the program on Friday. Marshall's 16 assists were the most by a UNC player in any ACC game and the most since Raymond Felton had 18 against George Mason in December 2003.
It was a strong showing for North Carolina as it heads into Wednesday night's trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face reigning national champion and fifth-ranked Duke, particularly since the turmoil that began barely 48 hours earlier.
Marshall had taken over the starting job from Drew after an ugly 20-point loss at Georgia Tech, and the Tar Heels hadn't lost since. Then Drew walked out, issuing a statement without even a word to his teammates while relying on his father — Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew — to tell coach Roy Williams in a phone call.
His departure forced more of a burden on Marshall while forcing sophomore Dexter Strickland to take on more ball-handling duties as well. But Marshall, while playing a season-high 36 minutes, looked completely at ease in the lead role, finishing with three turnovers while directing an offense that hummed almost all game.
Marshall drew the loudest cheers from the crowd during starting lineups, then played so well that the students started chanting his name at least three times during the second half as the lead steadily grew. He left the game to a standing ovation with the Tar Heels up 18 with 1:06 left.
Tyler Zeller and John Henson both scored 16 points for the Tar Heels, while Strickland had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists in a season-high 35 minutes.
Chris Singleton scored 15 points to lead Florida State, which shot 47 percent but struggled to contain Marshall's penetration. Florida State had won the past two meetings — edging the Tar Heels in the 2009 ACC tournament semifinals then winning by 10 here last March — but has never won three straight in the series.