CORAL GABLES Fla. — If the statistic existed North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson likely would have broken the record for number of shots that almost iced a game in Sunday's matchup against Miami.
First it was back-to-back 3-pointers with 3:35 and 2:53 left in the game to extend UNC's lead from 1 point to 4 — only to have Miami come back with a 3 of its own each time.
Then minutes later with the shot clock winding down the junior guard let one fly from well beyond the arc. The shot dropped in with about 10 seconds remaining to put his team up 4 once again.
And when Miami still refused to go away by converting a layup Lawson finally slammed the annoyingly resistant door. His pair of free throws with two seconds left gave the No. 3 Tar Heels a gritty 69-65 victory at the BankUnited Center for their ninth consecutive ACC win.
In the past" Lawson's outside shot has been a question mark. But now that he's shooting 49.4 percent for the season — not so much.
The speedster has utilized his ability to penetrate — and that confidence from outside — to lead UNC to three of its past six wins.
""I'm shooting what"" 48 percent from 3?"" said Lawson"" who has been under the weather the last few days but put up 21 points and hit a career-high five 3s.
""So I think I'm a great shooter. I mean"" that's one of my strengths.""
The Tar Heels won despite shooting just 38.8 percent"" nearly blowing a 14-point second-half lead and failing to get their high-octane offense in gear for much of the game.
""It was an ugly" ugly game and tonight North Carolina was luckier than Miami" coach Roy Williams said.
The first half ended with a 29-26 UNC lead, which was the result of some tough defense to make up for an unusual performance on the offensive end. The Tar Heels seemed bothered by Miami's zone, were unsuccessful shooting over the top and failed to get out on the break.
Give Miami credit"" Williams said. Their defense spread us out a little bit. We didn't get the penetration that we needed.""
But the first five minutes of the second half were a complete 180. UNC hit four 3s and put up 18 points in that time to open up a 10-point lead. That would eventually balloon to 54-40 before the Jack McClinton show started.
Miami's star guard put up 8 straight points and 12 overall during a 17-4 run to pull his team within 1. He ended up with game-highs with 35 points and seven 3-pointers.
But amid the 3-point shootout that defined the last few minutes of the game" UNC would throw in two key defensive plays to maintain its slight edge.
With McClinton sailing to the basket for a go-ahead layup with about four minutes to go" Danny Green suddenly materialized to block the shot and give UNC possession.
""I just remember coming from the help side" Green said. I wasn't sure if he was going to keep going all the way or shoot a pull-up. I waited for him a little bit and he tried to lay it up over me. … Luckily" I got up high enough to catch it.""
And then with UNC still only up 1" it was Tyler Hansbrough taking a charge in the corner with 44 seconds left to give UNC the ball and set up Lawson's third clutch shot.
Although it wasn't a vintage performance by any means" Lawson's heroics keep UNC on its ACC roll after starting 0-2 in the conference.
""It's the beginning of the season. Coach told us" we just play our game things will take care of themselves" Lawson said about the turnaround. Now we're two games up on everybody. So it just feels good. Just keep doing what we're doing and we'll probably win the ACC.""
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