Wednesday night’s shocking loss to Duke left a poor taste in the mouths of UNC basketball fans, players, and coaches alike.
All that can be said now is that game is old news.
Clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center, the No. 5 Tar Heels blew out the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes 96-71 in a game between the top two teams in the ACC standings.
UNC led by as many as 38 points in the second half before finally calling off the dogs, dropping Miami to 21-5 this year with a 10-4 conference mark.
Head coach Roy Williams gave his Tar Heels—now 22-5 with an 11-3 ACC record–the day off after the Duke game, with the expectation that the players would get themselves ready for Miami.
In another shift from how Wednesday night played out, Williams’ plan worked.
“Friday when they came in, I showed them two plays of the Duke game,” Williams said. “I said, ‘Alright that’s all we’re gonna talk about it. It’s behind us now. Our focus with the scouting report and every possession when we’re out there on the court today will be on Miami.”
“We never mentioned the Duke game again,” he continued. “We had a pregame meal today, never mentioned anything except Miami—and the kids did a great job of focusing.”
Senior forward Brice Johnson picked up his ACC-leading 16th double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds—leading a balanced effort that saw six Tar Heels reach double figures.
UNC also made nine of its 20 three-pointers, showing a shooting prowess that simply was not there against Duke—when the team went just 1-of-13 from long range.
Miami head coach Jim Larranaga said afterwards, though, he doesn’t think the result had anything to do with what happened earlier in the week.
“Teams lose from time to time,” Larranaga said about the Tar Heels. “As good as they are, and as good as this league is, you’re playing against good teams most every night.
“[UNC] shot the ball great from the perimeter, they rebounded the ball well, and they dominated us,” he added. “That hasn’t happened all year long.”
While it’s true that Miami hadn’t been beaten that badly at any point this season, it’s even more important to recognize that UNC only led by nine points at halftime.
Much of the talk surrounding the team—both since the Duke loss and after last season—has focused on its ability to close out games.
Listening to sophomore wing Theo Pinson, who scored 10 points and provided a number of hustle plays off the bench, it’s clear that the players want nothing more than to change that narrative, and used this game to do it.
“People were saying that last year, we’re basically the same team [this year],” Pinson said. “We’re way more mature than we were last year. Last year we might have came out flat in this game.
“This year, as you see, we came out and punched them in the mouth,” he added.
Although the Tar Heels may have done more than just punch Miami in the mouth, it’s indisputable that the effort gave the Tar Heels their first win over a ranked ACC opponent in four tries this season.
Whether they can build on it heading into tournament play remains to be seen, but Williams said his main focus on Saturday was making sure his players had their minds in the right place—the same reason he went to check on them in the weight room on their day off from practice Thursday.
“I wanted to see if anybody was around so we could talk to make sure they weren’t giving me this ‘Woe is me’ stuff,” the coach said. “Because I’ve tried to make sure I’ve never felt sorry for myself in my whole life.
“So I don’t like that to happen to my team.”
A pair of tough road games await the Tar Heels, as they’ll head to Raleigh on Wednesday for a rivalry matchup with NC State, before heading to face Virginia on Saturday.
Day turned to night in Greensboro. A team from down the road in Raleigh made some noise thanks to two special players.
#7 NC State vs. #10 Miami
This one felt different from the beginning. The electricity had arrived in the Coliseum as the Wolfpack darted out to a 7-2 lead. The atmosphere was awesome.
Miami was definitely keying on ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren, but the man could still find a way to score. He’s just that good.
But the Hurricanes and Head Coach Jim Larranaga were throwing everything and everybody at him. Slowly but surely, the Canes were climbing back with some defensive tenacity.
Darius Adams was making some nice moves on the offensive end for Miami as the Wolfpack struggled to run their own offense, missing shot after shot.
With 7:19 to play before halftime, NC State held a narrow 13-12 advantage. Ralston Turner was leading the scoring charge for the Wolfpack with six points. The game’s pacing was much more to Miami’s liking.
It was looking more and more like the first team to sixty points may win the game. At the half, the Wolfpack held a 26-22 advantage.
Impressively, NC State only committed a single turnover in the entire first half of action. But the shooting woes were evident for the Wolfpack, who only shot 32 percent from the floor. The Canes shot a more respectable 42 percent as a team.
Miami led in total rebounds 18-12 and scored 16 of their 22 points in the paint.
More importantly, however, the trampoline dunking show at halftime was on point! You just had to turn a blind eye to all the traveling.
If anybody likes a good churro, might I suggest grabbing one at the Coliseum? Very delicious – had too many to count!
Meanwhile, NC State and Warren came out blazing in the second half and claimed a 32-24 lead just 2.5 minutes into it.
But Miami bounced right back with Larranaga barking out orders from the sideline. He’s really a heck of a coach, that guy. He’s a battler, and his players, at least in this contest, were taking after him.
The game was really stagnant, at least as far as scoring. I caught a dude falling asleep a few rows back from me. He woke up a few minutes later and really didn’t miss a thing.
But alas, a winner had to be found. Turner was a major player. Let’s say he was Robin to Warren’s Batman. And “Batman” displayed some soft touch to get a couple more baskets to fall, but the Canes went on a late 9-0 run full of guts and effort. But it wasn’t quite enough. The Wolfpack eeked out the victory and a spot opposite Syracuse in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
FINAL: NCSU 67 – UM 58
***Listen to the recap***
The Tar Heel offense was anemic for most of the night, but the aggressive 2-3 zone by the athletic Miami squad definitely contributed to the woes. In total, Carolina shot 31 percent from the floor.
The Hurricanes, improving to 9-6 overall and 1-2 in conference, slowed down the tempo, and executed a surgical offense for much of the contest while UNC continued its turnover struggles with some erratic play.
Rion Brown led the way for Miami with 15 points. Marcus Paige was a dreadful 2-15 from the floor for the Tar Heels and Joel James was ejected from the game in the first half with a flagrant foul.
James wasted no time making an impact in his return. He got to the free throw line and knocked down both attempts. And then he ignited the crowd with an up and under move to put the Tar Heels up 6-0 with 17:51 left on the first half clock.
Miami’s Donnavan Kirk responded soon after with an outside three-point jumper.
The energy and intensity was up from the outset on this night. At the under-16 timeout, Carolina held an 8-6 advantage over the Hurricanes.
Desmond Hubert fought his way to the foul line after the stop in play. He converted on one of two.
The Hurricanes battled out to a slim 10-9 lead, but Carolina’s Paige found nothing but net on a smooth three-point jumper. And Kennedy Meeks entered the scoring fray with a made slider inside to stake UNC ahead 14-13 with 11:20 to go in the half.
The pace of scoring slowed to a screeching halt for Carolina, and Miami was taking full advantage, garnering a 15-14 edge with 9:08 on the clock.
Tonye Jekiri picked up his second foul at the 8 minute mark. He was forced to take a spot on the Hurricane bench.
Nate Britt got his first points of the game with a deep two-point field goal to grab the lead back for the Tar Heels. But a freebie layup off a steal gave the lead back to Miami.
With 5:25 left in the first half, Miami held a 17-16 edge in a sloppy, back-and-forth affair in the Smith Center that had Coach Williams barking out orders courtside.
Isaiah Hicks hit a free throw and Paige hustled to get the rebound off the miss in the back court. Miami’s Rion Brown scored on the other end and continued his team-leading night in scoring early on.
Paige missed a three-point attempt from way out and the Tar Heels had only made three out of their last 18 shots to fall behind 21-17 with 3:24 remaining in the first half.
Meeks used his body well to earn a basket that closed Carolina within two. But Erik Swoope got one to go for the Hurricanes to extend back out the lead to four.
And a dagger three-pointer from Brown pushed Miami out in front even more. At the close of the half, the score stood at 29-23 in favor of the Hurricanes following a McDonald three.
Miami’s Rion Brown was leading all scorers with 11 points while Kennedy Meeks led the way for Carolina with 5 points.
UNC was shooting a woeful 29.6 percent from the floor in the first half. Miami was shooting at 37.9 clip.
To start the half, Paige knocked down a pair of foul shots to close the Tar Heels within four briefly before Kirk put the Hurricanes back up by six with 18:31 to go in the game.
James was thrown out of the game on a flagrant foul. The fans inside the Dean Dome were not too happy with ejection when it appeared James had no malicious intent.
Brice Johnson got his first points of the night with a turnaround jumper that placed the score at 34-27 with 17:05 left in the contest.
Carolina continued to be out of sync on offense, trailing 35-27 with 15:59 to go. Surprisingly, Miami had not managed to build a wider margin.
A beautiful slam by J.P. Tokoto woke up the snoozing crowd and encouraged a timeout by Miami Coach Larranaga with score standing at 35-31 in favor of Miami.
It marked the first time Carolina scored back-to-back field goals since it was up 8-0 in the first half.
Miami seized momentum back with a couple quick buckets to extend the lead out to 41-33 with under 12 minutes left in the game. Swoope was providing some nice energy inside for the Hurricanes.
McDonald banged in a long three to keep Carolina in the hunt, but Miami’s surgical offensive execution kept them in front 46-36 with 9:09 remaining.
McAdoo knocked a jumper in, and then followed that up with a trip to the foul line. He made one to get UNC within seven.
McDonald chipped in another score to get the Tar Heels within five, and Tokoto provided some more lift. UNC had closed the gap to 47-43 with 5:08 to play.
Jekiri converted on a slam on the other end to get the Miami offense going again. Kirk fouled out for the Hurricanes to send Johnson to the line. He flicked them both through the nets.
But McAdoo returned the favor to send Swoope to the line on a three-point play. Turnovers were doing the Tar Heels in towards the end of the game.
With 3:32 to play, timeout was called. Miami led UNC 52-45. The Tar Heels continued to battle on in the waning minutes, but it was a case of too little too late as Miami walked out of the Dean Dome with a victory for the second straight time.
You can view the final game box score here.
CHAPEL HILL– The 10-4 North Carolina men’s basketball team will be hoping to defend its home court Wednesday night against the 8-6 Miami Hurricanes.
***Listen to the story***
The Tar Heels dropped their ACC opener 73-67 at Wake Forest Sunday night while the Hurricanes lost to league favorite Syracuse in a tight contest, 49-44.
Head Coach Roy Williams says one of the most disappointing aspects of the Wake defeat was the free throw disparity.
“You know it’s a frustrating game. They shot 33 free throws. We shot 11. We get eight million offensive rebounds, but we can finish the play around the basket. It was just a frustrating game in so many different ways. But the bottom line is WakeForest played better than North Carolina,” Coach Williams says.
As a result, Coach Williams says Monday’s practice was the most physical the team has had all year.
“It was the most physical practice we’ve had for an hour all year long. They were beating each other up, and it didn’t bother me in the least bit. We’ve got be more forceful around the basket and finish plays,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels committed 17 turnovers against the Demon Deacons. And Coach Williams says most of those were “silly turnovers.”
“We had four turnovers passing the ball from A to B where the defense was not involved. We had three turnovers just dribbling the basketball. […] So those were silly turnovers,” Coach Williams says.
It’s been nearly impossible to know which Carolina team will hit the floor on any given night this season. Coach Williams says he shouldn’t have to coach intensity and effort, but that’s exactly what it has come to for this group of Tar Heels.
“Some way, somehow, Roy Williams has got to do a better job of getting the kids more fired up and more enthused. I’ve always said I shouldn’t have to coach effort. I shouldn’t have to coach interest. I shouldn’t have to coach desire. […] But I’ve done a poor job of getting these kids fired up to play, and it better change,” Coach Williams says.
A tough road trip up to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to face the No. 2 team in the nation, the Syracuse Orange, looms for the Tar Heels.
But the Miami game comes first. UNC leads the all-time series with Miami 18-5, including a 9-2 mark in Chapel Hill. Tipoff is slated for just after 9 p.m. Wednesday in the Dean Smith Center.http://chapelboro.com/unc-mens-basketball/tar-heels-return-home-acc-opening-loss-face-canes-wednesday-night