Current Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2014 11:02:42 -0400
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The opening minutes of North Carolina’s 87-61 loss to Miami looked eerily similar to the start of the Tar Heels’ overtime win against Virginia Tech last weekend.
The Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0 ACC) reeled off nine straight points before the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4 ACC) translated a strong defensive possession into a layup for guard Reggie Bullock on the other end — UNC’s first points of the game.
But unlike last Saturday, the Tar Heels couldn’t come back from the early deficit and instead saw the game steadily slip out of reach behind a lights-out performance by Miami.
“We didn’t have many answers for them,” coach Roy Williams said.
Miami’s dominance began early when senior forward Kenny Kadji knocked down a 3-pointer less than 30 seconds in to the game.
In the opening three minutes, Miami went 4-for-6 from the floor, while the Tar Heels missed four of their five attempts.
But despite North Carolina’s slow start, Williams still believed his team had a chance.
After Bullock’s layup, both teams went scoreless for three minutes until Durand Scott knocked down a jumper to extend Miami’s lead 11-2.
During that stretch Miami committed five turnovers and didn’t take a single shot. The Tar Heels committed only two turnovers during that time, but missed all four of their shots.
“They had four or five turnovers themselves in the first seven or eight minutes,” Williams said. “And then all of a sudden they started making every shot.”
Five Miami players knocked down 3-pointers in the first half, but perhaps the most prolific scorer was sophomore catalyst Shane Larkin.
Larkin made five shots in the first half — four of them coming from behind the arc — to end the half with 14 points, but he would only add one more field goal in the second half.
Against Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels struggled to get their offense going early and watched the Hokies put up 12 points before Dexter Strickland hit a jumper after more than four minutes had ticked off the clock.
“These past two games we’ve been starting off kind of slow,” Bullock said. “They just got to do what they wanted to do.”
Though neither Williams nor his players can pinpoint a specific diagnosis for the cause of UNC’s early-game lethargy, Bullock had a simple solution.
“As a team we just have to punch somebody in the mouth first before they actually punch us in the mouth,” he said. “I feel like we start out our best runs from when we’re behind and we can’t do that against great teams.”
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