Miami’s Ja’Quan Newton makes halfcourt game winner to beat No. 9 North Carolina

Photo credit: Josh White

Senior Ja’Quan Newton had made only four 3-pointers all season, shooting just 17 percent from beyond the arc. His fifth one might have solidified the Miami Hurricanes an NCAA Tournament spot.

After sinking two free-throws, the Canes were up three points with nine seconds remaining when North Carolina senior Joel Berry II hit a contested 3-pointer to tie the game.

With four seconds left at that point, Newton rushed the ball up the floor and hit a 3-pointer just inside halfcourt right as time expired. The Hurricanes won 91-88 against the No. 9 Tar Heels, spoiling Senior Day for the defending champions on Feb. 27 at the Dean Smith Center.

Newton scored the last nine points for Miami, going 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the closing minutes, and totaled 15 points. Freshman Chris Lykes led the Canes with 18 points, and sophomore Dewan Huell added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Six Hurricanes scored in double-figures.

Miami led by as many as 16 points in the high-scoring matchup, but, as home teams often do, UNC chipped away at the lead and shot its way right back into the contest with a barrage of 3-pointers – it made 13 on the night.

For North Carolina, it was a wasted performance from Berry, who scored a season-high 31 points and made five 3-pointers. Luke Maye, who averages 18 points to lead the Tar Heels, picked up his 15th double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Theo Pinson, who played with Berry on the 2017 championship team, also had a double-double with 12 points and 11 assists. He has led the team in assists 20 times this season.

UNC guard Cameron Johnson added 20 points.

The win puts the Hurricanes (21-8, 10-7 ACC) in sixth place in the conference, owning a tiebreaker with Virginia Tech, which Miami plays in its regular season finale. UM almost surely will make the NCAA Tournament and will have a chance to secure a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament, and a double-bye in the bracket, with a win against the Hokies and help with losses from other teams above them in the standings.

The loss for the Tar Heels (22-8, 11-6 ACC) snaps a six-game winning streak in which they were one of the hottest teams in college basketball. They could have sealed a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament with a victory but now will have to fight just to stay ranked in the top six.

And with North Carolina’s regular season finale being a rivalry matchup on the road against the Duke Blue Devils, a win could be a tall order.

Miami now holds a record of 3-3 against AP Top 25 teams and improves to 15-1 when leading at halftime and 10-1 when scoring 80 or more points.

With sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. still out with a foot injury, Lykes and fellow freshman Lonnie Walker IV have stepped up, coming into the game averaging 11 and 14 points, respectively, in ACC play. Walker scored 13 points against the Tar Heels.

The Canes hit 11 3-pointers. UM made 12 of 13 free throws, but UNC made just 13 of 20 from the line, with crucial misses in the final minutes.

The Hurricanes are in the midst of their sixth 20-plus win season in seven years under head coach Jim Larrañaga.

Miami looks to close the season strong and potentially lock in a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament in a matchup against Virginia Tech at noon March 3 at the Watsco Center.