CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina shot badly and didn't have a lot of intensity while playing in front of a home crowd that seemed almost bored.
Perhaps a demanding four-game stretch finally caught up to the 19th-ranked Tar Heels -- even if it wasn't enough for them to lose to the Atlantic Coast Conference's worst team.
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Freshman Harrison Barnes added 17 points and provided at least some spark during a clinching 11-0 second-half spurt with a pair of dunks. But otherwise, this performance just didn't measure up with the way North Carolina (19-6, 9-2 ACC) had played in recent victories at Boston College and Clemson, at home against Florida State or in last week's close loss at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium -- where the Tar Heels led by 16 just before halftime before faltering in the second half.
Instead, the Tar Heels coasted and led only 63-55 with less than seven minutes left before the decisive spurt.
"I think we took too much of a deep breath," coach Roy Williams said. "I don't mind you catching your breath, but you've got to be more focused than we were."
North Carolina has won 12 of 14 since losing to Texas on a last-second shot in December and sits right behind the Blue Devils in the standings. Still, this might have been its worst game since a clunker at Georgia Tech in which UNC lost by 20 to a team sitting just ahead of Wake Forest (8-18, 1-10) in the league's basement.
North Carolina shot 37 percent and seemed content to settle for long-range shots -- Williams could at least take solace that they were open looks -- against the zone defense. The Tar Heels shot 5 for 27 from 3-point range, extending a miserable stretch in which they've gone only 7 for 47 since halftime of the loss to the Blue Devils.
The Tar Heels helped themselves by taking a 50-35 rebounding advantage, including 20 offensive boards that led to 16 second-chance points that offset some of the shooting struggles.
"It felt a little flat," Zeller said. "It's one of those things that hopefully we can change and start shooting like we were a couple of weeks ago."
Things should get a little easier. This game started a favorable run with four of the final six regular-season games at home.
"I think Coach is a little upset with how we played tonight," said sophomore John Henson, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. "In order to be a great team, you've got to knock teams out like this. We didn't do that like we wanted to, but this is a learning experience and it's something we've got to start doing."
The Demon Deacons had created a small buzz -- or, more likely, relief -- when they edged Virginia on Jan. 29 to end talk of whether they would become the first team to go 0-16 in ACC play. But they hadn't won since, with a one-point home loss to Miami standing as the closest thing to a highlight alongside three league losses by 21 points or more.
While this one wasn't quite as ugly, it ended with the same dull pain rolling through their locker room.
"We have tears in that locker room all the time," first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They flow. They hurt, I hurt, we all hurt. When you're not winning, it takes courage to not let people challenge your confidence. You need to persevere through that, and if you do, there will be a great reward through the very end."
After trailing by 18 points in the first half, Wake Forest pulled within eight on a 3-pointer from Ari Stewart with 6:45 left. But Barnes soon threw down a dunk in the lane while drawing a foul from Stewart for a three-point play that made it 67-55.
About a minute later, Barnes caught a pass from Kendall Marshall in transition and dunked over freshman J.T. Terrell to make it 71-55. Marshall closed the run with his only basket, a 3, to make it 74-55 with 2:40 left.
Meanwhile, the Demon Deacons were in the midst of going 5½ minutes without a field goal at exactly the worst moment.
"From start to finish, we all thought we had a chance," said Terrell, who led Wake Forest with 18 points. "Not once did we get down on ourselves and think we weren't going to win this game. We just fought hard."