For the second time this week, the Hurricanes played a road game in North Carolina, this time against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
While the Tar Heels came into the game as 5.5-point favorites, there was still some degree of uncertainty as to how the game would play out considering the string of injuries plaguing both teams.
Miami (10-9, 2-7) had to survive without its leading scorers in Chris Lykes (15.7 PPG), who he sat out of the Saturday’s game with an agitated groin injury, and Kameron McGusty, who was dealing with back spasms. There absence undoubtedly played a part in Miami’s 94-71 loss Saturday afternoon in the Dean Dome.
With Lykes and McGusty out, Miami was forced to make its first starting lineup change of the season, filling the void with freshmen Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly.
The Tar Heels also have had their fair share of setbacks this season. After being ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP Poll and beginning the season 5-0, the team began to falter after a shocking loss to Michigan. Since then, the Tar Heels have only won three of their last 12 games.
North Carolina has also been aching from the loss of star freshman guard Cole Anthony, who has sat out for the past eight games with a knee injury.
The game, therefore, proved to be a crucial matchup for both teams, as they struggle at the bottom of the talent filled ACC. UNC head coach Roy Williams was seeking his 880th all-time win, which would make him the fourth winningest coach in college basketball.
The game began rather slowly for the Hurricanes, with head coach Jim Larrañaga running a conservative zone defense. Miami also suffered five scoreless minutes early in the first half, putting the team at a disadvantage from the start.
Not much seemed to improve from that point forward. Harlond Beverly struggled tremendously in his first start, with a missed shot clock, poor passing, and repeated turnovers.
With 10:18 left in the first half, Miami had only managed to score four points, all coming from senior center Rodney Miller. The final 10 minutes were not much better, with the highlight of the half being a dunk from Anthony Walker in which the freshman forward appeared to jump out of his shoes.
The first half ended at 51-27, with Miami conceding more points than in any other half this season. Miami attempted 14 3-pointers, but only managed to score one, while the Tar Heels boasted a three-point percentage of 42.9 percent. North Carolina had 17 assists in the first half and only one turnover.
With Anthony Walker as the only scholarship reserve player on the bench, the struggling Hurricanes did not get much relief throughout the rest of the game.
However, considering UNC had dropped its last two games after leading by double digits going into the second half, Miami remained hopeful.
While senior guard DJ Vasiljevic made his first 3-pointer of the game five minutes into the second half, the Hurricanes’ shooting was not consistent enough to stage a viable comeback.
Vasiljevic continuously struggled to score, managing only eight points after playing 30 minutes and failing to lead the team in Lykes’ absence. Junior forward Sam Waardenburg had just two points after 27 minutes of play.
Isaiah Wong, who has played limited minutes in past games, led the team with 19 points.
Miami, now 2-7 in the ACC, will host Virginia Tech on Jan. 28 at the Watsco Center.