For every push the University of Miami had, North Carolina had an answer. The Hurricanes would hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit, then the Tar Heels would counter with a three of their own to keep their distance on the scoreboard.
It was just one of those days for the players in orange and green.
After trimming the lead to as few as five with a 7-0 run in the final 50 seconds of the first half, the Hurricanes were smothered on offense and dismantled on defense by the Tar Heels in the second period of the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Miami was outscored 44-24 in the frame, leading to a 78-53 defeat in Brooklyn.
“I thought Carolina was very sharp from the start,” UM Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They made a lot of shots early – got some things going. I don’t think we were sharp all day. Our defense did not put much resistance, and our offense was out of sync from the very beginning.”
Shot after shot bounced in and out for ninth-seeded Miami, while UNC showed exactly why it is the one seed, hitting 53 percent from the field on 21 assists.
The Canes shot just 30 percent in the second half.
“Ending the first half, we left the floor with a lot of confidence,” Miami senior captain Kamari Murphy said. “Coming back, we couldn’t stop what they were doing. They continued to attack us. On our end, we were hesitant. We weren’t attacking them. They were the better team today.”
A day after defeating the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the tournament, Miami struggled to find its groove. The Canes (21-11, 10-8 ACC) dealt with what has been their achilles heel all season – turnovers and missed free-throws. They coughed up the ball 15 times, while also missing six at the charity stripe.
UM freshman guard Bruce Brown was the only Cane to score in double figures, dropping 21 points on 9-13 shooting.
“I was just trying to give us a boost of energy,” Brown said. “I felt like we were down and we weren’t playing the way we knew we were capable of. I was just trying to get us hyped.”
North Carolina (27-6, 14-4 ACC) were led by 19 points and six rebounds from senior forward Isaiah Hicks. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry II and Kennedy Meeks joined Hicks in double figures, scoring 12, 11 and 10, respectively.
The Tar Heels outmuscled the Hurricanes, who ranked second in the ACC in scoring defense during the regular season, using their size to finish with a 34-24 advantage scoring in the paint and beat the Canes 36-29 on the boards.
Now eliminated from the ACC Tournament, UM turns its eyes toward Selection Sunday, when it will be decided which teams make the NCAA Tournament and what seeds they will hold. The event is set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We’re going to leave this game behind,” Murphy said. “We’re going to start a new season in the NCAA Tournament.”
Larrañaga echoed his captain’s comments, talking about the confidence he has in his team’s abilities.
“I would look at Carolina and think they’re a real threat to win the national championship, yet we split with them,” Larrañaga said. “I know we played bad today, but we’re very capable of playing a whole lot better.”