Carolina Rides Brice Johnson To Big Road Victory

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team gutted out a 73-64 victory over Miami Saturday afternoon inside the BankUnited Center to improve to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Hurricanes dropped to an 18-11 mark on the season and 8-8 tally in league action.

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Carolina rode a stellar 22-point outing from junior forward Brice Johnson to escape Miami with the critical ACC road win with only two games remaining on the regular season docket.

Both Johnson and junior forward J.P. Tokoto turned in double-doubles while junior guard Marcus Paige knocked down three shots from behind the arc to finish with 15 points.

With Miami junior guard Angel Rodriguez seeing limited action with a right wrist injury, the Hurricanes received standout performances from fellow classmates Sheldon McClellan and Ivan Cruzuceda, who both finished with 11 points.

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

But it was Carolina’s dominance on the boards – grabbing 42 rebounds to Miami’s 28 – that allowed the Tar Heels to maintain the lead for 37 minutes of the contest.

“I was really pleased with our guys. We had some mistakes, particularly late in the first half. Some of them got a negative look on their face. But they paid attention at halftime to what we talked about, and in the second half, I thought we were pretty doggone good,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

The Tar Heels came out of the gates strong in Coral Gables, pushing out to a 10-4 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Getting Paige involved early was the most positive aspect of the early proceedings for Carolina.

The Hurricanes matched UNC’s scoring charge with solid production of their own, but with 9:56 to play in the opening 20 minutes, the visiting team held a 22-16 advantage.

But Carolina suffered a more than four-minute scoring drought that allowed Miami to go on an 8-0 run that trimmed UNC’s lead down to a mere 1 point at 22-21 with 6:01 remaining before halftime.

At intermission, though, the Tar Heels were clinging to a 32-30 edge on 12-29 shooting.

Out of the locker room, a couple quick scores in transition by Jackson and Johnson helped push Carolina’s lead out to 38-33 with 17:05 to play.

With 15:56 on the second half clock, Miami’s McClellan picked up his fourth foul and promptly took a seat on the bench.

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

It was Johnson who served as Carolina’s offensive sparkplug, while big man Kennedy Meeks continued to struggle to find his footing in the interior. But a flurry of threes from Miami’s Cruzuceda flipped the dynamic of the contest and gave the Hurricanes the 48-47 lead with 11:05 to play.

A big three-point make by freshman guard Joel Berry broke a 50-all deadlock. At the under-eight media timeout, UNC held on to a narrow 53-50 advantage.

Johnson’s emphatic play rolled on down the stretch and with contributions from Paige and Tokoto added in, Carolina was more than able to hold off a spirited effort from Miami.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes another road encounter – this time with the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta Tuesday evening.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-rides-brice-johnson-to-big-road-victory/

Scouting Report: Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga as his Hurricnaes get set to welcome the Tar Heels to the BankUnited Center Saturday afternoon.

The two discuss the do-or-die scenario facing  bubble teams like his own, the competitiveness of coaching in the ACC, the special challenges Carolina presents and the special atmosphere that will await UNC on Senior Day at Miami.

***Listen to the conversation***

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/scouting-report-miami-coach-jim-larranaga/

Slumping Tar Heels Head To Miami In Hopes Of Recovery Effort

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 19-9 overall and 9-6 in ACC action, hits the road to sunny south Florida to take on the 18-10 Miami Hurricanes Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels will desperately be looking to get back on track after dropping five of their last seven games.

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If there’s such a thing as a must-win game, Saturday’s tilt at the BankUnited Center is one of those.

The Hurricanes, winners of three of their last four contests, are fighting to secure their place on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble while the Tar Heels need to build up their shaken confidence here on the doorstep of the postseason.

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Likely most concerning for UNC head coach Roy Williams has been the late-game miscues that have repeatedly cost his squad vital victories.

The end-game woes all started with the collapse at Louisville, continued in the disappointment at Duke and stung most recently in the N.C. State loss.

“Silly poise. No poise. I’ve never had a play where our big guy shoots a three-point shot, unless he could really shoot threes. Kennedy [Meeks] just didn’t know what to do so he shot it. We had a set play called twice in a row and didn’t execute that so that’s the Coach’s fault,” Coach Williams says.

Junior forward Brice Johnson, who struggled mightily Tuesday night against the Wolfpack with a 1-6 shooting mark, says the Tar Heels need to leave their struggles behind them and focus on the here and now.

“That was awful. We got to do better. We got to be ready to play from the tip. We didn’t. They came here and beat us. We can’t let that happen, but it did. We got to bounce back from it. We’ve been in this predicament before,” Johnson says.

Coach Williams says his team needs to get tougher and take it to opponents at the rim for a full forty minutes going forward.

“Pump fake and go at him strong. Don’t pump fake 17 times and then try to make the softest shot in the history of basketball. You got to be tough. It’s a physical game. You’ve got to be strong,” Coach Williams says.

UNC’s toughness will likely be put to the test Saturday against Miami head coach Jim Larranaga’s bunch. Junior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez are capable of taking over a game.

Miami's Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Miami’s Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Last time out, Rodriguez did just that, running over the rival  FSU Seminoles with ruthless authority to the tune of 25 points.

UNC would do well to get its scoring leader, junior guard Marcus Paige, back into the flow. Coach Williams says the rest of the team, though, needs to do a better job of helping him out.

“He’s an emphasis for the other team. We’ve got to do a better job of getting him open. He’s got to do a better job moving, but other guys got to be able to step up and make a shot every now and then too,” Coach Williams says.

Paige says it’s not the defense that’s got him concerned. But with nights like Tuesday, where the Tar Heels shot a mere 35 percent from the floor and totaled a Smith Center low in points, the offense is another issue altogether.

“We need to play better. We were getting decent shots, but we weren’t giving them a chance to get us layups. In the second half we got a bunch of layups, got back in the game and made it interesting, and then we kind of deviated from that again. We need to play better offensively. Offensively, we just kind of stunk it up,” Paige says.

Despite the discouraging slide of late, UNC remains in the hunt for that coveted No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament. But it can ill-afford a slip-up in the Sunshine State.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/slumping-tar-heels-head-to-miami-in-hopes-of-recovery-effort/

Tar Heels Licking Wounds Heading Into Bye Week

It was tricks not treats for the Tar Heels over Halloween weekend.

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The Tar Heel football team heads into a bye week with a bitter taste in the mouth following a 47-20 beating at Miami Saturday. UNC head coach Larry Fedora’s squad was thoroughly dominated in all three phases of the game.

Coach Fedora says UNC, now owning a 4-5 overall record and 2-3 mark in the ACC, didn’t do much right in Sun Life Stadium Saturday.

Tough day at the office for the Tar Heels (Miami Athletics)

Tough day at the office for the Tar Heels (Miami Athletics)

“They did a great job. They started a lot faster than we did. They pretty much won every phase of the game. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. They ran the ball on us, we couldn’t move the ball on them, and special teams were atrocious,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heel offense had a season-low six yards rushing and quarterback Marquise Williams was continually battered in the backfield.

Falling behind big early, the Tar Heels were forced to abandon their multi-faceted offensive playbook and become one-dimensional – allowing the Hurricanes to concentrate all their efforts on the passing game.

Coach Fedora says it was a recipe for disaster.

“We gave up six sacks. We didn’t run the ball very good at all and got into a position that we were down so far that we had to throw it every down. That’s not what we’re built for,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heel defense earned a dubious distinction in the process. Star Miami running back Duke Johnson’s 90-yard scoring run was the longest rushing play by a UNC opponent in school history.

To add insult to injury, the normally reliable special teams play was nowhere to be found as well. There were two errant snaps on what should have been routine punts.

Coach Fedora says he’ll use the bye week to shore up the cracks in the special teams armor.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

“We’ll go back and evaluate what we’re doing with those kids and make sure that we get it corrected. That’s not very characteristic of the way we play on the special teams. I’m not sure what the reason was,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels have three games remaining on their schedule – Homecoming against Pittsburgh, a Thursday night contest at Coastal-leading Duke and a battle with N.C. State, who got off the ACC schneid last weekend, to wrap up the regular season.

UNC will need to win at least two of them to earn bowl eligibility. Coach Fedora says the team will get healthy in the bye week and then prepare to close the 2014 campaign strong.

“We need all the help and days we can get to get some extra work in. We’ll try to get some guys healthy, get them freshened up and make a run these last three games,” Coach Fedora says.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-licking-wounds-heading-bye-week/

Tar Heels Trounced By Canes 47-20

The North Carolina football team fell at Miami 47-20 in a critical ACC Coastal Division matchup Saturday afternoon and dropped to 4-5 on the season and 2-3 in the conference.

With the win, the Hurricanes improved to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in ACC action.

Duke Johnson went over the 3,000-yard mark for his career and scored three times despite getting most of the second half off. Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya threw three touchdown passes to help guide his team by UNC.

Miami's Duke Johnson sprints ahead (Miami Athetics)

Miami’s Duke Johnson sprints ahead (Miami Athetics)

Johnson had a 90-yard touchdown run that tied the Miami record for longest rush from scrimmage, and he finished with 177 yards on 19 carries for the Hurricanes. His one-yard scoring run opened the scoring and later, he turned a middle screen into a 37-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Kaaya completed 11 of 17 passes for 189 yards, and now has 20 touchdown passes in his freshman season. Clive Walford had two touchdown grabs, the first Miami tight end to do so since Greg Olsen in 2005.

Quarterback Marquise Williams had a pair of touchdown runs and Cayson Collins returned a fumble 39 yards for a score for UNC, but the Tar Heels struggled mightily to gain any traction against a motivated Hurricane bunch.

With Miami up 30-6 at halftime and leading 322-57 in total yards, it was practically over.

 Johnson has had a rushing touchdown in each of his last eight games, the first Miami back to do that since Willis McGahee in 2002. And in his last five games, he’s racked up 843 yards on 97 carries.

UNC's Williams drops back (Miami Athletics)

UNC’s Williams drops back (Miami Athletics)

It was the second straight week that Miami led by 24 at halftime. The Hurricanes have had that big a lead at intermission only once in their first 83 ACC games, before doing it last week against Virginia Tech and again Saturday. They’re in form.

 Next up for the Tar Heels after a bye week comes a home game contest against Pittsburgh Nov. 15.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-13/

Underdog Tar Heels Strive To Survive Hurricanes

The North Carolina football team, 4-4 on the season and 2-2 in ACC play, will take on the 5-3 Miami Hurricanes, also 2-2 in conference, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Sun Life Stadium.

***Listen to the story***

Both teams harbor realistic hopes of an ACC Coastal division crown, but neither can afford a loss this weekend.

Miami is playing formidable football these days. Coming off two dominating wins over Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes currently sit as 17-point favorites in the betting lines.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

UNC head coach Larry Fedora (Elliott Rubin)

But junior offensive guard Landon Turner says the Tar Heels are ready for the challenge. The Notre Dame game changed the team’s mindset.

“I think it [ND game] helped a lot. You play a high-caliber team like that and play very well. I think that spoke volumes and boosted our confidence up for the weeks to come. It was tough to lose. The loss hurt, but it was still healthy for us. We still came out of that game winning,” Turner says.

Miami’s star running back Duke Johnson has tallied a touchdown in seven straight games and has amassed 35 first downs in the past five outings. He’ll be a handful for the Tar Heel defense.

Duke Johnson (Miami Herald)

Duke Johnson (Miami Herald)

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says Johnson’s legs take pressure off the rest of the Hurricane offense.

“They’re getting better in the offensive line. They’ve got Duke Johnson and have the big kid behind him that comes in and does a great job. They’ve always had the guys that can fly on the outside. I think they’ve done a good job with the quarterback and bringing him along. It helps when you have an offensive line and Duke Johnson that can run the football like that to take some of the pressure off him so he doesn’t have to throw it all the time,” Coach Fedora says.

Miami’s freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya has matured greatly in the past few games, playing with a newfound sense of comfort and confidence. Earlier in the year, the young signal caller was prone to coughing up the football, but he’s cleaned up his act.

“You watch his film as he goes, and he’s more poised every week. I watched the TV copy of the Virginia Tech game. He handled every aspect of it just like a junior or senior. He wasn’t rattled by the noise or hype. He did a nice job of managing the team,” Coach Fedora says.

The Hurricane defense has been up and down in 2014, but Coach Fedora says their experience has allowed them to be a much more worrisome unit than in years past.

“Defensively, a lot of these guys were playing three years ago. I think they have six or seven seniors starting on the defense. I think out of the eleven guys, there’s one sophomore on the defense. You have some age and experience. They’ve been through the battles together. They’re playing well on defense,” Coach Fedora says.

As for the Tar Heels, UNC junior quarterback Marquise Williams says the offense must get off to a faster start this weekend.

“As an offense, we’ve got to start out much faster. This past Saturday, we started off too slow. We’re just going to keep playing our style of football – smart, fast and physical,” Williams says.

Williams in action (Elliott Rubin)

Williams in action (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora says the keys to UNC’s success on Saturday will rest in special teams play and stopping the run.

“On special teams, we’re going to have to create another game-changing play. That’s going to have to happen. On defense, we’ve got to play with a lot of energy from the very beginning. We’ve got to stop the run. We’ve got to put the game on the freshman quarterback’s back,” Coach Fedora says.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Miami 9-8, but fell to the Hurricanes by a 27-23 margin in dramatic fashion a season ago. The two schools have battled to a 5-5 draw in their 10 games as ACC members since 2004.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/underdog-tar-heels-strive-survive-hurricanes/

Baseball: Miami Claims UNC Series

No. 4 Miami got six scoreless innings from starter Bryan Radziewski and clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title with a 2-0 win over North Carolina Saturday afternoon at Alex Rodriguez Park. Zac Gallen was Radziewski’s equal for much of the day, allowing just two runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings and striking out six in a losing effort. Michael Russell had two hits for the Tar Heels, who finished the regular season 32-23 and 15-15 in the ACC.

Miami (40-15, 24-6 ACC) scored once in the first and once in the fourth against Gallen and the Tar Heels. Tyler Palmer reached on a one-out triple when his bloop to right got past a diving Tyler Ramirez, and David Thompson plated Palmer with a single up the middle.

Skye Bolt almost erased the second run of the day when his strike from center after a one-out fly ball beat Thompson to the plate. But Thompson’s clean, hard slide knocked the ball away from Korey Dunbar and the Canes had a 2-0 lead.

Carolina’s best chance came in the fifth, when Ramirez and Adrian Chacon reached on consecutive singles to open the frame against Radziewski. After a failed sacrifice attempt for the first out, Russell blooped a ball in front of Palmer in left to load the bases. But Miami’s redshirt junior lefty struck out Parks Jordan and Landon Lassiter swinging to end the threat and strand three.

Bolt led off the sixth with a double to left, but he was erased on a double play when Willie Abreu’s throw from left beat him to the bag at third.

Lassiter walked with two gone in the eighth to bring on Bryan Garcia, and the Miami closer got the final four outs of the game to end it and give the Canes the ACC regular season title.

Zach Rice entered the game for Carolina in the seventh and retired all five batters he faced to keep the game close.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/miami-claims-series-finale-tar-heels/

Tar Heels Split Pair Of Friday Night Games With Hurricanes

The North Carolina baseball team split a doubleheader with the No. 4 Miami Hurricanes Friday night after a dominating 11-2 win in game two of the series at Alex Rodriguez Park to improve to 32-22 overall and 15-14 in ACC action.

The Tar Heels rebounded impressively from a tough marathon 16-inning loss in 16 innings. Carolina scored in the top of the 16th on a Parks Jordan RBI single only to watch the Hurricanes rally for a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to snag the series opener. The game marked the longest contest for either team in 2014.

There was far less drama in the nightcap. The Tar Heels jumped all over the Hurricanes from the outset, scoring four runs in the first inning and eventually led 11-1 through four to give starting pitcher Benton Moss all the run support he could need.

Moss delivered a memorable performance by striking out nine batters and allowing just four hits en route to his fourth victory of the season.

Friday night’s win was Carolina’s third over a top-5 opponent this season. Next up for the Tar Heels comes the series decider at 12 p.m. Saturday. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-split-pair-friday-night-games-hurricanes/

High Stakes Baseball In Coral Gables

The North Carolina baseball team, 31-21 overall and 14-13 in the ACC, is staring at its final series of the season when taking on the ACC-leading Miami Hurricanes, 38-14 on the season and 22-5 in conference, down in Coral Gables for a three-game set starting Thursday evening at 7 p.m.

***Listen to story***

“When you’re 22-5 in this league, you’re really good. They are going to throw three left-handers at us who are really good. We’ve got our hands full. We’re certainly very capable of going down there and beating them. We’re going to have to play at a high level,” Coach Fox says.

The Hurricanes, ranked seventh nationally by Baseball America, are the hottest ballclub in the NCAA at the moment, winning 25 of their last 27 games.

The home field advantage will only make things more difficult for the Tar Heels. AlexRodriguezPark, with a seating capacity at 4,999, will surely be rocking this weekend as Miami attempts to clinch the ACC regular season title.

Despite most observers’ attentions being drawn to the struggling Carolina offense, Coach Fox insists it’s the defense and pitching staff that will ultimately decide UNC’s fate on the diamond.

“It’s still really the key for us. Everybody looks at our offense, but we didn’t pitch great against FloridaState. Still, on that defense, we’ll have some lapses at times,” Coach Fox says.

Senior Parks Jordan, who will graduate over the summer, has been an offensive bright spot for the Tar Heels in 2014, especially in recent times. Jordan was named ACC Player of the Week Monday.

“Parks has been really steady for us. Every single day he comes down to the ballpark with a really professional approach. He’s helped us win a lot of games,” Coach Fox says.

The Hurricanes hold a 30-24-1 all-time series advantage over the Tar Heels, including a head-to-head series lead of 19-9 in Coral Gables.

And just in case Carolina needed any extra incentive to win the Miami series this weekend, Coach Fox says he’d rather avoid the dreaded No.7/8 seeding next week in Greensboro that would force the Tar Heels into a playoff scenario.

A top six seeding would ensure an escape from the playoff. If the season ended now, Carolina would land in the No. 5 seeding slot, safe from the one-game elimination contest.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit unfair to our seventh seed and potentially, our eighth. Historically, those are teams that get into the NCAA Tournament. Now, you’re making them play one game on Tuesday, one-and-done. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out this year,” Coach Fox says.

Stakes are raised this time of the year. An ACC title, ACC Tournament seeding, NCAA Tournament placement and pride will all be on the line for the Hurricanes and Heels in scorching Miami beginning Thursday night.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/high-stakes-baseball-coral-gables-tar-heels-hurricanes-season-finale/

UNC Women’s Basketball Drops Second Straight, 83-80 To Miami

CHAPEL HILL – The No. 6 UNC women’s basketball team couldn’t bounce back from its loss to Syracuse, dropping its third ACC meeting, 83-80 to Miami Sunday afternoon.

In the early minutes, the recent loss looked to have carried over into Sunday’s matchup. The Hurricanes led by 19 with 6:22 to play in the first half. However, the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run in the final 4:01 of the first to bring the game back to single digits.

Miami took the 42-36 lead into the locker room.

Carolina continued that run into the second half. The Heels went on a 9-2 run out of the break until the Canes halted the streak tying the game at 45 with a free throw.

It remained close until the final minutes. Miami pulled away again with :28 to play, 80-73. Scrappy defense kept Carolina in it in the final half minute with the Heels fighting for loose balls and winning the rebounding battle. The Hurricanes hit their free throws down the stretch, though, and took the 83-80 win.

Miami shot 20 points better than Carolina at 57 percent from the field; it also hit 82 percent of it foul shots compared to 52 percent from the stripe by UNC.

With the loss, North Carolina fell to 17-6, 5-3 in the ACC; Miami improved to 13-10, 5-5.

The Tar Heel women hit the road this week to face Georgia Tech on Thursday with the Duke road game just around the corner on Monday.

Box Score

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-womens-basketball-drops-second-straight-83-80-miami/