"I desperately wanted (win) number nine for this team," head coach Roy Williams said.
The win gave Williams his 880th all-time, one more than former mentor Dean Smith after the two had been tied for five games following the win over Yale. Maybe it's poetic, then, that the team played just like a Dean Smith team of old — 32 assists, tied for the most ever in the Roy Williams era, on 40 made baskets.
And just like those teams of old, everything looked like it came naturally. The Tar Heels ran the floor, dissected the Miami zone with their passing, made open shots and, the entire time, looked like they were having fun. Mostly.
"(Assistant coach Hubert Davis) jumped on them at halftime a little bit because they didn't have any smiles on their face," Williams said. "I think you've got to enjoy playing well, but the only thing is I had to yell at Garrison (Brooks) during the game because he had a big smile on his face, but he let the guy just drive right by him for a layup."
It was clear everyone in the arena in Carolina Blue — the players, the coaches and the fans — were relieved by the win. After the game, players answered questions from the media like there was a weight off their back, complete with tired smiles.
"We were trying to win really badly, so we were pretty serious," junior guard Andrew Platek said. "I think we get caught up in that a little too much.
"When you have a big win like this, you remember that you can kind of let yourself go, and play the way you know how to."
The free-flowing feeling extended to the court, as eight different players scored for North Carolina and six different players registered at least three assists.
Senior guard Brandon Robinson scored a career-high 29 points to go with a career-high six 3-pointers after missing the game against Virginia Tech, still dealing with injuries he received from a Jan. 11 car crash.
First-year center Armando Bacot led the team with a career-high seven assists to go with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The team set season highs in assists, points scored, margin of victory and field goal percentage, all done without point guards Cole Anthony or Jeremiah Francis.
"The mood in the locker room was so much better," Robinson said. "I feel so much better just cause we won. I can sleep good tonight, so I'm happy about that."
It may never get better than this, this season. Miami was already a bad team, missing players and playing on the road after being beaten down by ranked teams Duke and Florida State last week.
But at least for an afternoon, the Tar Heels could say that they won, that it was fun to win, and that they can all sleep good tonight.
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