Wake falls asleep against Tar Heels in 14-point loss

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Vince Carter scored 21 of his career-high 26 points in the first half as No. 12 North Carolina remained in contention for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, holding off No. 4 Wake Forest 74-60 on Wednesday night.
The surging Tar Heels (18-6, 8-5), who more than a month ago were off to their worst-ever ACC start at 0-3, won their sixth-straight and ninth in 11 games to move into a fourth-place tie with No. 8 Clemson in the league standings. They are one game behind Wake Forest and Maryland, which are tied for second.
North Carolina has regular-season games left at Maryland, at Clemson and at home against league-leading Duke.
The Demon Deacons (20-4, 9-4), the two-time defending ACC champions and the preseason favorite, fell one game behind Duke with three games left. Wake Forest also dropped to 1-11 in the Smith Center.
North Carolina had lost to Wake Forest by 24 points in each of its last two meetings, but the Tar Heels led by 20 at halftime behind Carter’s 9-of-10 shooting.
The Demon Deacons, who fell in a controversial overtime loss Sunday at home to last-place N.C. State, lost two in a row for the first time since midway through the 1994-95 season — a span of 75 games.
Carter, whose previous high was 20 points twice this season, scored seven of North Carolina’s first nine points, then had 10 points during a 17-6 run midway through the first half that broke the game open early. The 6-foot-6 guard made three-pointers 27 seconds apart to key the surge as the Tar Heels led 38-18 at halftime.
While Carter scored more points and had more field goals than the entire Wake Forest team in the first half, All-America center Tim Duncan had a miserable opening 20 minutes for the Demon Deacons, going 3 for 9 from the field and 1 for 4 from the foul line.
However, Duncan finished with 20 points to extend his double-digit scoring string to 51 straight games.
Wake Forest had a chance to cut into the first-half deficit as North Carolina turned the ball over on four straight possessions late in the period, but the cold-shooting Demon Deacons managed only one point over a period of 4 minutes and shot 25 percent in the opening half.
Carter missed his first two shots of the second half, but put another exclamation point on the best game of his career with 17:46 left, driving down the lane for a spectacular slam dunk over a fouling Steven Goolsby.
Carter missed the free throw, but Serge Zwikker grabbed the rebound, was fouled, hit two free throws and the Tar Heels led by 22.
Once the margin reached 24, Wake Forest closed within seven with a furious 23-6 rally, but unlike a month ago when the Tar Heels blew a 22-point lead at home to Maryland without an injured Carter, North Carolina hung on down the stretch.
Antawn Jamison scored on a layup and Shammond Williams, the hottest three-point shooter in the ACC over the last 11 games, hit a long-range shot and the margin reached double digits again with 6:24 left, and North Carolina closed it out from the foul line.