Stephanie Mavunga led the Tar Heels to the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night with a game-high 23 points over Georgia Tech in an 84-64 win in Greensboro. Carolina is a No. 6 seed in the tournament and is lifted to a 24-7 overall record.
Mavunga also finished the night with 16 rebounds and 8 blocks. She said she felt tonight was one of the best night’s to make a statement.
“I really had to step up big,” Mavunga said. “Especially after having such a bad game last game at Duke, I felt like I had let my team down and needed to step up tonight.”
Just before halftime, UNC thought it would take a break with a 13-point lead, until Tech guard Antonia Peresson shot an impressive half court shot at the buzzer to bring them behind the Heels 37-27.
Carolina went through a short scare at the beginning of the second half when Allisha Gray went down hard on the court with an apparent right ankle injury.
“During the game when Allisha got knocked down, I didn’t like that,” Mavunga said. “And seeing her like that made me furious, it ticked me off and actually motivated me.”
When Gray checked back in after a quick trip to the locker room, UNC found their sync and took over on the court in the final minutes – never letting Georgia Tech get back in within seven points.
Coming behind Mavunga in scoring was Gray with 14 points and three assists alongside Latifah Coleman with 10 points on 40 percent three-point shooting.
UNC shot 50 percent from the floor and scored 21 points off of the Yellow Jackets’ 18 turnovers.
Georgia Tech was led by Kaela (KAY-luh) Davis and Zaire (Z-eye-AIR) O’Neil with 14 points apiece while Aaliyah Whiteside added 13.
On Friday, UNC will meet Louisville as they make their ACC Tournament debut. The Tar Heels are hoping to redeem themselves from the 75-66 loss at Louisville in February.
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No. 19 North Carolina will remember well its 92-90 overtime loss at Cameron Indoor a few weeks ago. Up by double digits in the closing minutes of regulation, some sloppy mistakes in a rowdy environment cost the Tar Heels dearly.
Saturday offers a chance at redemption. That chance at revenge certainly isn’t lost on UNC head coach Roy Williams. Roy’s all fired up.
“If we have a letdown this time, we don’t have a freaking heart. Come on. We’re playing Duke, they beat us last time, and it’s the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball. If we get beat, it won’t be because of a letdown. If we have a letdown Saturday, I mean, what have we done? We’re not even in the top four,” Coach Williams says.
Roy pointed out another interesting subplot to Saturday evening’s festivities.
Louisville and UNC are competing for the No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. The Cardinals face the back-to-back ACC regular season champion Virginia Cavaliers in game one of ESPN’s doubleheader. A loss there would open the door for the Tar Heels to secure the precious double bye in Greensboro next week.
As for Duke, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has no such worries. His Blue Devils locked up the No. 2 seed next week with their senior night thrashing of Wake Forest Wednesday night.
Coach K is concerned, however, with a couple bum ankles.
“Our trainer said it didn’t seem bad. We’ll see. I don’t think long-lasting. I hope everybody is ready for Saturday. We only have the eight guys. That’s not a good thing. We’re concerned,” Coach K says.
The Tar Heels come into the rivalry matchup with some momentum. Coming off two road victories at Miami and Georgia Tech, Carolina appears to be in fine form.
“We tried to do a better job on the big guys in the second half [vs. GT]. We sort of meandered around there a little bit. We got enough breaks, enough layups and enough shots to go in the basket. But I do believe the whole thing is we just had more bodies than they did,” Coach Williams says.
A healthy Pinson adds even more depth to an already deep UNC lineup. Duke, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury. Getting into foul trouble is not an option for the shorthanded Blue Devils.
That’s why Coach K is emphasizing getting healthy.
“We secured the second spot for the ACC Tournament, which is great. Big game on Saturday. Let’s get healthy and go for it,” Coach K says.
Freshman Tar Heel Joel Berry tallied a career-high 15 points against Georgia Tech, including a trio of three-pointers.
If Berry’s knocking down outside shots, look out.
“You just got to put in the extra work if you want to see things happen in the game. I just try to after practice, get up extra shots. Once I get out on the court, game-time situation, that will help a lot,” Berry says.
Practice is in fact making perfect for Berry. The returning Pinson is hoping for the same.
“I’ve been running and cutting on it all week. I was pretty comfortable with it. I was just ready to get the heck out there and play basketball,” Pinson says.
The final member of the Tar Heel freshman trio, Justin Jackson, has been rounding into form as well. Jackson says he’s taking a more aggressive mindset to the floor.
“For our team to win, we need everybody to step up, me included. These past couple games, I’ve tried to be more aggressive and make things happen. It’s worked out pretty well,” Jackson says.
Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke 133-106, but the Blue Devils have won the past two meetings.
Our pregame coverage on 97.9 FM, WCHL begins at 7 p.m. Saturday with a special one-hour edition of the UNC Healthcare Countdown to Tipoff presented by Stanley-Martin Homes hosted by Ron Stutts. Listeners can also tune in to our live stream right here on Chapelboro.com.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/stakes-are-high-for-duke-carolina-round-two/
It’s UNC-Duke Week in Chapel Hill, and while most of the attention is on Saturday night’s basketball game, Coach Mike Fox and his 8-3, 11th ranked, Tar Heel baseball squad will also host a very talented Duke team. The Blue Devils will bring a 10-1 record into Friday’s opener.
Although they aren’t typically seen as a baseball powerhouse, head coach Chris Pollard has the Blue Devils currently on quite a roll, as Duke brings a nine-game win streak into Boshamer Stadium.
Coach Fox says he’s well aware of the challenge in front of the Tar Heels this weekend.
“I think we’re gonna have our hands full,” Fox says, “I mean Duke’s played really well so far this pre-season. They’ve pitched exceptionally well. They’re gonna run three guys out there at us that are really, really good, and if we don’t match them on the mound, and if we don’t play good defense, we’re gonna have our hands full as I said.”
One of those great Duke pitchers is 6’6” junior Michael Matuella, considered by many pro scouts to be a lock for the first round of the MLB draft. He’ll likely start on Friday, but UNC sophomore outfielder Adam Pate says his team is confident in their game-plan against the big righty.
“He’s really talented, he’s really, really good, and obviously gonna be probably a first-rounder. Our approach to that is going to be to make him work, try and get his pitch count up, and try to get to their bullpen as soon as we can,” Pate says, adding that “When it comes to the match-up game I think we can play against just about anybody in the country.”
Senior Benton Moss has been the Tar Heels’ ace this year, with a 2-0 record and 27 strikeouts in just 15.2 innings pitched. However, it’ll be Zac Gallen on the mound in the opener, as Coach Fox says, “It looks like right now we’re gonna have to push Moss back a day. I think Coach Forbes pretty much made that decision, so it’s probably gonna be Zac Gallen (pitching Friday).”
Commenting on why the move was made, Fox was very brief, saying “Just a precaution, that’s kind of all I want to say.”
First pitch for the series will be thrown at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Both weekend games will start at 2 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-duke-rivalry-hits-the-diamond/
I like to write outside. It’s where I always think most clearly.
That’s one of the reasons this harsh N.C. winter has been so hard for me. I’ve been cooped up indoors. We all have. That may be “A-OK” for some, but not for me. I get stir crazy.
And that’s precisely why I jumped at the opportunity to soak up the sun in the outfield seating of Boshamer Stadium Wednesday afternoon. 72 degrees. Carolina blue skies. I’m all in.
I couldn’t make a beeline past the press box fast enough. A place in the grandstand seating was calling me.
I settled into a seat halfway up the bleachers just past the third base line, stretched out my legs and basked in all the day’s glory. It’s the simple things, right?
I guess you can call me a “sun worshipper.” Yes, I believe in God and all that, but few things make me feel more alive than a summer evening cookout, a Sunday morning jog on the beach, a stroll around the golf course, or a fall college football tailgate. Pretty much anything done outside on a gorgeous day is an irresistible proposition.
But that goes for my work as well. When I was in school, you could often find me perched atop our fraternity’s front bench at 207 West Cameron, flipping through notes, sending out emails or typing up my latest opinion piece for The Daily Tar Heel.
Some days, some of my brothers would leave, go to class, and return hours later only to find me still manning my post outside.
They’d say, “Oakes, you’re still out here?” I’d reply with a smile, “Of course, no place I’d rather be. What a beautiful day.” Really, inside, I was thinking, “Why aren’t you out here? You’re blowing it!”
Don’t get me wrong, I was getting stuff done. Checks on the checklist. Somehow, even the most dense, mundane reading or burdensome assignment becomes enjoyable on a sun-soaked April day.
I still carry on that affinity for the outdoors. Whenever the chance presents itself, I’ll hold team meetings outside our WCHL/Chapelboro studio. Out at the picnic tables. It’s more relaxing. I think my staff enjoys it too. I hope so. Some people, I suppose, could say they get distracted. But I get more creative. That’s good for the majority of my work.
I come up with some of my most cohesive ideas and full-proof plans along the American Tobacco Trail. Those jogs clear my mind and fuel it at the same time (if that’s even possible). But they do. Peaceful and productive – I like that combo.
Feeling the refreshing breeze while gazing up at the puffy white clouds? My oh my. That’s my kind of office.
I know: I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to indulge in my “sun worshipping.” A good chunk of the sports world revolves around the sun. I’m thankful. In fact, when I get a little more advanced in age, I may just move to the Caribbean and open up a snorkeling business. How does that sound? It’s not off the table, folks!
Oh, what a glorious afternoon it was at the Bosh. Rich, green grass. Country songs blaring. Sunflower seeds scattering in the wind. The crack (well, technically, the ping) of an occasional bat. Families with popcorn and hot dogs. Kiddos scampering for foul balls. Light, warm applause.
By the way, the Tar Heels beat the VCU Rams 6-5 in a riveting midweek contest that went right down to the ninth inning.
But the baseball comes secondary. It’s about the experience. Coming alive again. Springtime, long-lost friend, it’s good to see you.
Follow Matt on Twitter @moakes3http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/oakes-outlook-coming-alive-again/
A walk-off wild pitch capped off a crazy ending at Boshamer Stadium on Wednesday, handing the 11th ranked UNC baseball team a 6-5 win over the VCU Rams, as they escaped a dramatic comeback attempt to improve their 2015 record to 8-3. The defeat drops VCU to 3-6.
The Tar Heels led the game 5-2 entering the top of the ninth inning, with ace Trent Thornton on to seal the deal. A win seemed like a sure thing for Carolina, but the Rams had other plans, striking for three runs off of Thornton to tie the game. Coach Mike Fox says that was definitely an unusual sight.
“It was a little bit surprising obviously with Trent,” Fox says, “We’ve got a three-run lead, two outs, and nobody on and (then) we’re making the game right now a little bit harder than it should be. You don’t see that from Trent Thornton.”
Freshman Brian Miller entered the game as a pinch runner with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth. UNC slugger Skye Bolt was at the plate, when VCU freshman closer Sean Johnson’s pitch sailed by the catcher, allowing Miller to score. Afterwards, Miller was stunned by what had just happened.
“It was a shocker,” Miller says, “Bring our closers in, and you expect to close the game, but that’s just baseball sometimes. We were prepared for it and came back and won the game, thankfully.”
Making his first start in center-field in place of the struggling Bolt, who came into the game batting just .212, sophomore Adam Pate delivered the first RBI of the day for the Tar Heels in a three-run second inning that allowed UNC to work with the lead all game long.
Describing his own thoughts on the ending, Pate says “Wow, not like our pitchers, but I’m sure they’ll bounce right back and get back to mid-season form, hopefully soon. That’s ball, that’s how it goes. They’re all better than how they pitched tonight, so they’ll be back ready to go for the weekend.
A strong unit normally, the Carolina pitchers walked nine batters on Wednesday.
The pitching performance will be something to keep an eye on in Chapel Hill this weekend, with UNC opening up ACC play at home against the arch-rival Duke Blue Devils. The teams are scheduled to play a three game series beginning Friday at 3 P.M.
North Carolina is headed back to the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum as a No. 6 seed. Although the seeding by no means favors the Tar Heels to win the title, Carolina holds two All-ACC First Team selections on its roster – sophomores Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga.
Out of the four schools to be placed in the top seeds in the bracket, UNC only beat one of them this season. Gray led Carolina with 22 points to force an upset victory over No. 7 Florida State last month in Carmichael Arena.
“At this point in the year I think every team is a little beat up, and it is that time of year when all the ACC teams are so tough, especially on the road. You can get banged up but so much of it is mental, it’s just a mentality. That’s why I challenge the seniors because it’s their team and they’ve got to lead the way in tough situations like this.”
This is the second straight year UNC has been the 6 seed. The Tar Heels advanced to the semifinals in 2014 before a 66-61 loss to Duke.
In the final game of the regular season on Sunday, UNC faced their rival and envisioned ending the game by spoiling Duke’s senior day. However, they suffered a one-point loss in Cameron Indoor to complete the Blue Devils’ sweep.
It was then that head coach Sylvia Hatchell realized that her team would need to develop more heart to compensate for their disadvantages in height.
“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro we’re going to take boxing lessons,” Coach Hatchell said. “Because we’ve got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside and hold our own in there.”
Coach Hatchell has repeatedly made it a point to judge her team’s success not only by a higher number of points at the end of the game, but also a higher number of rebounds.
As ACC play deepened, UNC was often beaten on the glass as they depended on their speed for offensive opportunities. While Stephanie Mavunga stands at 6’3”, she is often listed as undersized compared to many frontcourt players on ACC program rosters. Mavunga still manages to lead her team in rebounds with 8.7 per game, which places her at eighth-best in the conference.
“We’re a fast break team so steals are great for us,” junior guard N’Dea Bryant said. “I feel like we finish well and that’s what Carolina basketball is about – getting steals and getting fast break points so it’s normal really, it’s what we’re here to do.”
On Thursday at 8 p.m, the first match for the Tar Heels is a game against the winner of the 11th seed Georgia Tech and 14th seed Clemson match-up.
After suffering their first conference loss to Pitt in early January, Carolina made a run at redemption by defeating Georgia Tech in Carmichael Arena, 96-81.
Also, in mid-January, sophomore guard Jessica Washington scored a career-high 20 points to defeat Clemson 78-56 on the road. Washington netted 4 three-pointers to give Carolina its third conference win.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/wbb-to-open-acc-tournament-on-thursday-at-8-p-m/
Clutch performances from freshmen hitters lifted Coach Mike Fox and his 11th ranked UNC baseball squad to a 6-4 road win Monday night over the Liberty Flames in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Tar Heels were able to recover from their loss on Sunday and improve to 7-3, while Liberty drops to 6-4.
Third baseman Logan Warmoth continued his impressive first year campaign with an RBI single smacked to left-field right out of the gate. The hit drove in junior Landon Lassiter to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. He also drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the fourth inning for his second RBI of the game.
Warmoth’s classmate, and roommate, first baseman Zack Gahagan, blasted his first career home run with a solo shot to lead off the fourth.
On the mound for the Tar Heels was yet another freshman, 6’3″ lefty Hunter Williams, who was making his first career start, however he went just two innings and allowed one earned run before handing the ball off to the bullpen; an effort to save arms with four more games scheduled this week.
UNC quickly recovered after an infield error and a wild pitch let Liberty tie game in the bottom of the first, snatching the lead in the second behind back-to-back triples from the speedsters, Adam Pate and Brian Miller, as both men were able to score, giving Williams the lead back (Miller’s also a freshman).
Once Liberty scored another run in the bottom of the second, it was a senior, reliever Trevor Kelley (1-0), who came in and dominated, baffling Flame hitters the rest of the night. He went 5.1 innings before allowing a runner to reach base, picking up the win and throwing just 41 pitches in the process.
In just his third at-bat of his own freshman season, all of them as a pinch hitter, Ryder Ryan doubled down the left field line in the top of the seventh, scoring Alex Raburn and providing yet another RBI for the Tar Heel young guns.
Trent Thornton came on to replace Kelley with one out in the eighth after another throwing error, wild pitch combination allowed Liberty to close the gap to three.
Much like in the two wins against Rhode Island last weekend, the junior from Charlotte was able to record five outs en route to earning his third save of the season, but it didn’t come easy. He walked Liberty’s pinch hitter Nick Walker and allowed a double to shortstop Dalton Britt. A wild pitch let Walker score and bring the tying run to the plate for the Flames.
Thornton didn’t back down though, as he brought out his bulldog mentality and retired the next two batters to end the game.
Carolina is scheduled to face VCU on Wednesday at 3 P.M in their return to Boshamer Stadium. The game was originally set for Tuesday, but was moved due to rain and cold temperatures in the forecast. Wednesday’s high temperature is supposed to be near 70 degrees.
The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play, travels to Atlanta Tuesday night for a rematch with Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, 12-17 overall with a 3-14 mark in the league, will be hoping to sting the Tar Heels and knock them out of a potential No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.
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UNC’s final road game of the season figures to be a manageable one. After all, lowly Georgia Tech has lost three in a row and Carolina absolutely clobbered the Ramblin’ Wreck earlier this season in Chapel Hill, 89-60, in the famous ‘Four Corners’ game.
The Tar Heels will hope to embark on another runaway. After all, they’ve struggled to close out the tight games.
But UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says Saturday’s road win at Miami helped restore his team’s late-game confidence.
“It feels good. We’ve had a lot of close battles that unfortunately, one or two things happen and we lose. This time, we were able to make a couple corrections and make enough winning plays to make a difference. It feels good to be in a close game and actually come out on top,” Paige says.
UNC head coach Roy Williams says the 15 turnovers in south Florida were worrisome, but he liked the aggressive activity of junior forward J.P. Tokoto.
“I wish we’d leave out the turnovers. We don’t need to fill out that stat. I thought he had a couple big-time rebounds where it was, ‘who is going to get it?’ And it was J.P. who came up and got it. He’s got to go to the board and rebound for us. He’s done a much better job of it,” Coach Williams says.
As for the foul trouble, too many whistles have been blown for Coach Williams’ liking.
“We do want to try to get fouled. We’re leading the country in mind in number of times we reach in and make silly fouls,” Coach Williams says.
Coach Williams says he doesn’t expect freshman Theo Pinson to return to the lineup Tuesday night, but he dressed out last weekend and appears to be getting his health back. That’s good news for Tar Heel fans.
Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory, for one, is pretty high on Carolina.
“They’re as good as anybody around. Coach [Williams] knows that. The players know that. I think they’re, hopefully it will be after our game, they’re going to have a heck of a run,” Coach Gregory says.
Freshman guard Joel Berry came up with a clutch three-pointer over the weekend, but he credits the overall buy-in and effort from his teammates for getting the ‘W’.
“I think we played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We came out really slow against N.C. State and couldn’t get our momentum back. Today [vs. GT], we started off with great momentum. We just played together and a lot of effort,” Berry says.
If there’s one thing Georgia Tech can do, it’s rebound. Coach Gregory’s team is hauling in 38 per game. The offensive output, on the other end, is another story.
UNC leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 65-24. In fact, the Jackets haven’t beaten the Heels since 2011.
But McCamish Pavilon has historically been a tough venue in the ACC, and with UNC’s sights firmly set on snagging a double bye in next week’s conference tournament, a slip-up is not an option.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-heads-to-hotlanta-to-face-georgia-tech/
Struggles at the plate cost the 11th ranked UNC baseball team on Saturday night, as they fell 6-3 to the Rhode Island Rams, closing out their three game series played at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. The win is the first of the season for the Rams, bringing them to 1-5 on the year. Carolina drops to 6-3.
Trouble arrived early for the Tar Heels, with Rhode Island scoring a run in each of the first two innings to take control of the proceedings. Rams’ catcher Derek Gardella singled in shortstop Tim Caputo in the first, before a pair of errors in the second extended the frame, and allowed third baseman Matt O’Neil to score on a ground-out by Caputo.
Things settled down after that, with UNC starting pitcher Zac Gallen (0-1) maintaining his composure throughout. The Milk-Man delivered a solid outing, despite being credited with the loss in his first start of the year, keeping Rhode Island off the board after the unearned run in the second. He struck out nine hitters in six innings on 99 pitches, and gave up just five hits.
He just couldn’t get any run support, as the offense was lacking for the Tar Heels in this one.
Skye Bolt doubled to lead-off the bottom of the first for Carolina, but Rhode Island junior Lou Distasio (1-1) retired the next three batters to put a halt to that threat immediately. The right-hander was tremendous for the Rams, throwing six scoreless innings, striking out nine, while laboring for 111 pitches in the winning effort.
In the bottom of the seventh UNC was able to load the bases with two outs, but freshman reliever Dom Grillo got Tyler Ramirez to fly out to center-field, keeping the shutout alive.
Brian Miller, the freshman from Raleigh, finally broke the drought for UNC, knocking home Adrian Chacon in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Rhode Island lead back to just 2-1. Miller was in Carolina’s designated hitter spot, making his first career start, after impressing coaches in his pinch hit opportunities thus far (he’s batting .500 for the year).
Hopes seemed to be crushed for good as soon as the Rams got their shot to retaliate in the top of the ninth. They pounded out four runs (one unearned) off of the Tar Heels’ bullpen combination of Chris McCue and Spencer Trayner to give themselves the breathing room that would decide the game.
Carolina refused to give up, loading the bases yet again, this time with no outs in the top of the ninth. As the clock ticked past midnight and the game time approached four hours, Rhode Island closer Tyler Barss walked in one run and allowed another on a sacrifice fly by Alex Raburn.
Unfortunately, the Tar Heels weren’t able to find the energy to dig out of the deficit provided by the bullpen meltdown earlier in the inning, losing their second straight series finale.
UNC leads the all-time series between the teams 3-1.
A road game at Liberty University on Monday awaits the Tar Heels, having just been added to the schedule to help make up for the recent cancellations with St. John’s and Winthrop.
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.
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.
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.