Miami puts college basketball world on notice, downs North Carolina 85-57

Sixth-year redshirt senior Sam Waardenburg catches the ball in Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center.
Sixth-year redshirt senior Sam Waardenburg catches the ball in Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Guard Isaiah Wong led Miami in scoring with 25 points, catapulting the Canes to a resounding victory over North Carolina.

“Our players were really ready to play and executed our game plan to perfection,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Right from the opening tip, we demonstrated energy.”

After an early 5-2 Tar Heels lead, Miami (14-4, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) went on a 28-6 scoring run to give the Hurricanes a 19-point lead with 9:02 remaining in the first half.

“We plan for the game to be decided in the last minute,” Larrañaga said. “Most games in the ACC come down to the last minute, sometimes the last possession. We love that it didn’t have to come to that.”

Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty dribbling the ball up the court in Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center.
Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty dribbling the ball up the court in Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

One player on North Carolina (12-5, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) that Miami keyed in on was forward Armando Bacot, who entered tonight’s contest averaging a team-high 17.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this season.

Bacot finished the game with only 15 points, 12 of which came in the second half, when the result was all but determined.

“What we told the players is that no one guy can guard [Bacot],” Larrañaga said. “We had to switch onto him and limit his number of touches.”

Defending Bacot for much of the game was forward Sam Waardenburg, who finished with a career-high 21 points on top of his impactful defense.

“My game plan heading in against Bacot was to front [the post],” Waardenburg said. “I knew I had my guys back there [in help defense].”

A portion of Waardenburg’s 21 points came off Miami’s ball screens, where Waardenburg would set a screen and then pop out to the 3-point line for a potential open look.

“We knew North Carolina was either going to switch [positions] 1-5, which they didn’t, or they were going to be in kind of a drop,” Waardenburg explained. “On those side ball screens, they were going to be icing those and sending them to the baseline. So doing that, we knew we had opportunities for me to pop back and get a few open looks.”

This game meant a lot to a Hurricanes team that was seeking to rebound from a heartbreaking 65-64 loss to rival Florida State.

“Everyone in this past week has been really fired up in trying to get back on that win streak,” Waardenburg said. “The energy at these practices has been at another level.”

Junior forward Jordan Miller celebrates with students following Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center.
Fourth-year junior Jordan Miller celebrates with students following Miami's win over North Carolina on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Miami will play a much-anticipated rematch against the Seminoles this Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Watsco Center.

“I think we’re going to be more prepared,” Wong said. “It’s going to be a grit-and-grind game…we have a little grudge that we need to get off.”