The Hurricanes were as hungry as ever for their first win over the North Carolina Tar Heels since February 2018. Miami (4-5, 0-4 ACC) led by nine points with seven and a half minutes remaining in the second half Tuesday night against the Tar Heels, but the injury-plagued team could not shake its recent late game collapses.
North Carolina guard Leaky Black scored 16 points, 10 in the second half, and corralled nine rebounds, as North Carolina (7-4, 2-2 ACC) relied on 8-0 run and a game-winning layup from guard Andrew Platek to win 67-65 at the Watsco Center.
Freshman star guard Earl Timberlake received the starting nod for the first time in his collegiate career, leading the way with 12 points and five rebounds. Elijah Olaniyi also contributed with 11 points, though Miami could not capture their first home victory over North Carolina in nearly three years.
“These last three ACC games have been very, very tough to swallow,” said Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga on his team dropping the last three games by a combined five points. “We had our chances, multiple chances to win these games. We just keep coming up a little bit short.”
The Canes trailed by six out of the starting gates, yet senior center Nysier Brooks tallied the same number of points in the first five and a half minutes. Olaniyi and sophomore forward Anthony Walker carried the scoring load, combining for 16 of Miami’s 30 points in the first half.
“Nysier was negating their post play and getting some defensive rebounds and was a target inside and got several baskets in and around the rim,” said Larrañaga on the center, who eventually fouled out in the second half with 10 points and six rebounds. “Losing him was a huge loss, but the main thing is we didn’t handle the full court press very well.”
Sophomore guard Harlond Beverly posted seven points after the intermission to keep Miami ahead, by ten at the 12-minute mark, while North Carolina continued to commit turnovers, finishing the night with 20. The Tar Heels outrebounded the Hurricanes, however, 45-39, securing 14 offensive rebounds.
At one point in the ESPN “Super Tuesday” broadcast, college basketball announcer Dick Vitale credited Miami’s ability to hang on with one of the more storied programs in college athletics, saying that “They are playing so short-handed, but the one thing said at the top of the show… there will be no quit.”
Yet Miami experienced anything but heat offensively, something the program has encountered for most of the season. Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong capped off a 6-0 burst with 7:35 left in the game, as the team went 1-of-10 from the floor while surviving on four made foul shots.
“We just didn’t execute the way we wanted down the stretch,” Olaniyi said, despite the team missing the production and leadership of starting senior guards in Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty. “We honestly feel that we’re right there.”
Tar Heels forward Day’Ron Sharpe made a layup and both Black and guard Caleb Love sunk a triple to regain the lead, 63-61, with 1:42 still on the clock. Hurricanes freshman forward Matt Cross, meanwhile, fumbled the basketball out of bounds as 44 seconds ticked down.
“We got a turnover on the press when we finally got somebody to beat their guy to the ball,” North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. “I would say that our defense was something during that stretch that we did some good things but yes they missed some shots, too.”
Wong made a fall-away shot over two Tar Heel defenders to tie the game at 65 with 14 seconds remaining, but that did not stop Platek from hitting a runner along the right baseline. Carolina prevented Beverly from hitting a half court shot as time expired in Coral Gables.
“We ran a set play for Isaiah Wong, he did a great job of getting to the basket and scoring,” Larrañaga said. “They got it down the floor. Letting Andrew Platek just go to the basket and make a layup was just horrendous defense by us. That’s very, very disappointing, that should’ve been the best defense we played all night. We had to get a stop and Andrew went to the basket like no one was guarding him.”
Still seeking its first conference win on the season, Miami will travel to Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, Jan. 9, to take on the NC State Wolfpack (6-2, 2-1 ACC), who fell to No. 19 Clemson on Tuesday night. The matchup will be broadcast on Fox Sports Florida at noon.