Lights-out shooting propels Miami past the Tar Heels
The Hurricanes hit a a season-high 15 3-pointers.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — With a guard-heavy team this season, it’s no secret that North Carolina has often relied on its 3-point shooting to provide a lift.
But in the Tar Heels’ (16-7, 6-4 ACC) 87-61 loss to Miami (19-3, 10-0 ACC), the team was defeated by its own strategy and suffered the worst loss of the season.
On average, the Tar Heels outshoot their opponents from behind the arc, hitting 37 percent from deep while holding opponents to 34 percent.
But on Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels simply couldn’t keep up with a hot-handed Miami team.
“They do a good job of running their stuff, and we didn’t take them out of anything they like to do,” point guard Marcus Paige said. “When a team is comfortable and they’re in their comfort zone, the whole time you expect them to make shots.”
While guards P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock, and Leslie McDonald all scored in double figures, Miami’s 3-point assault overwhelmed the Tar Heels.
The Hurricanes’ season-high 15 3-pointers was the most made against UNC since William and Mary knocked down 16 in the first round of the NIT in 2010.
Even after switching into a zone defense for three possessions in the first half, the Tar Heels couldn’t shut down the Hurricanes’ perimeter offense. Instead, Miami made them pay by hitting 3-pointers on two of the three possessions.
“We knew their offense could get stagnant a lot when they go against a zone, but they shot us right out of it,” Paige said. “They made some big shots, and a lot of their guys were on fire tonight. Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do.”
In the last five minutes of the first half, Miami made seven field goals — five of them from 3-point range. And, in the opening four minutes of the second half, the Hurricanes picked up right where they left off, hitting three 3-pointers and one tip-in bucket.
The Hurricanes weren’t just doing well from behind the arc — the team shot 54.4 percent overall, making it the first to shoot better than 50 percent against UNC this season.
“Containing the ball was a struggle for us tonight,” Paige said. “I need to do a better job. Dexter, all our guards need to do a better job staying in front of the ball.”
The first time Miami and UNC met, the Hurricanes gave the Tar Heels a forewarning of what was to come in Coral Gables.
With a little more than eight minutes left in UNC’s loss on its home court, Miami nailed three 3-pointers in five minutes to stretch a one-possession game to an eventual 11-point win.
But in this win, Miami had the added benefit of a raucous home crowd urging the team on with more and more enthusiasm after every made shot.
The electric air generated an unstoppable momentum in the sold-out BankUnited Center that created the perfect storm to catapult the Hurricanes past North Carolina.
“Especially at home, you start making shots, it’s kind of contagious,” Paige said. “When you shoot that well at home and you hold team to poor shooting at home like we had, you’ve got to like your chances. “