BROOKLYN — Thanks to another solid defensive performance and a second-half explosion from Theo Pinson, the sixth-seeded North Carolina men’s basketball team defeated third-seeded Miami, 82-65, on Thursday night in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
UNC started the game with the same defensive intensity that smothered Syracuse in the second round. But head coach Roy Williams’ starters failed to match that effort offensively, failing to score in the game’s first 6:26. With 13:34 left in the first, Williams made a wholesale change and subbed out his entire starting five.
The substitution settled down the Tar Heels. After the Tar Heels missed their first 13 shots, Seventh Woods ended the drought with an and-one layup, 7:09 into the game.
Woods’ layup kicked off a 19-4 run for UNC, punctuated by a 3-pointer from Brandon Robinson to put the Tar Heels up 19-18 with 5:57 remaining in the half. The next 5:56.6 passed uneventfully, but with Miami leading 31-29, Cameron Johnson was fouled by Lonnie Walker IV on a three-quarters court heave with 0.4 seconds left in the half.
Johnson hit all three of his free throws to give North Carolina a surprising 32-31 lead heading into halftime.
UNC’s offense never found a rhythm in the first; the Tar Heels shot just 31 percent from the field and were 2-15 from three in the half. No scorer tallied more than six and Joel Berry II and Luke Maye -- the two First-team All-ACC selections -- shot a combined 2-16 with four points between them.
The second half started off just as eventfully as the first had ended. Within a period of two minutes, both Berry and Johnson went down with an ankle injury and a hip injury, respectively. Berry returned to the court and promptly converted on a pair of driving layups to give UNC a 45-44 lead.
The Tar Heels extended their lead to eight thanks to a three from Pinson and a pretty finish off the glass moments later. The latter forced Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga to call timeout with 6:06 remaining and UNC up 69-63.
After the Hurricanes rallied to within four, Pinson shut the door with a thunderous transition slam to bring the crowd to its feet.
Moments later, Kenny Williams drew a charge in transition and finished a pair of fast-break layups to finally give UNC enough breathing room.
Pinson ended the night with a career-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the second half. His 11 rebounds gave him his second double-double in as many nights.
The Tar Heels next face second-seeded Duke on Friday night for a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
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