Things looked dim. The Tar Heels seemed emotionally checked out — surprised that another ACC foe was taking it to them on their home floor.
On both ends of the court Miami was outplaying North Carolina staking a 32-23 lead Saturday at the Smith Center. Was this going to be another Boston College?
But it was then with about 6:30 left in the first half that something clicked. All of a sudden No. 5 UNC put it all together — defense 3-point shooting the transition game — and became the dominant team it used to be" en route to an 82-65 win.
""I think the last 4-5" maybe five minutes of the first half was crucial for us coach Roy Williams said after the game. We were down a bunch. I think we've been going through the motions. I told them that we can't play basketball if you're not into it emotionally mentally" physically and everything.""
For the Tar Heels (16-2" 2-2 in the ACC) the transformation began with the defensive play of point guard Ty Lawson. The junior started pressuring Miami sharpshooter Jack McClinton beyond the 3-point line and he attacked whenever a Hurricane tried to hand the ball off to McClinton.
That pressure helped the Tar Heels close out the first period on a 13-0 run holding the Hurricanes (13-4" 2-2) without a point for the final 6:45 of the half.
Effort like that from Lawson was instrumental in non-conference wins against Notre Dame and Michigan State but has been largely absent in recent weeks.
""Ty set the tone for us" guard Wayne Ellington said. He got on (McClinton) he made him do some other things took them out of what they wanted to run. Basically" we just fed off of Ty.""
Lawson wasn't the only Tar Heel who delivered a standout performance against Miami. Senior Danny Green had three blocks. Hansbrough led the team with 24 points — 20 of them in the first half. And then there was Ellington.
The junior went scoreless in the first half on 0-for-2 shooting and looked destined for another off shooting night. But just like the rest of the Tar Heels"" Ellington soon found his ""on switch.""
In about a 10-minute stretch in the second half"" Ellington made eight consecutive shots — seven from downtown — as UNC pulled away from Miami.
""It felt great" Ellington said of his hot shooting. I hadn't been shooting it the way I've been wanting to all season long so it was good to finally get me a game to boost some confidence to get me in a groove" get me in a rhythm.""
Ellington's 23 points were a season high" and his 8-for-14 shooting was his best effort from the field since Michigan State.
And after having their toughness questioned in losses to Boston College and Wake Forest" the Tar Heels silenced the doubters.
They were physical — on one block Green threw Miami's Dwayne Collins to the court. They defended — Lawson & Co. held McClinton to 3-for-10 from beyond the arc.
""Coach talked about us making the extra effort"" Green said. Doing the little things — getting back to being that hungry team.""
In doing so"" UNC dominated a quality opponent for the first time in more than a month.
""It's been a little while" Ellington said. Michigan State we had a game like that. It's been a little while" and it feels good for us to get it going again.""
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