UNC masters winning ugly, hitting big late shots for a second straight game

Black scores career-high 16, hits big late 3; Platek beats Miami on baseline drive with 3 seconds left

By R.L. Bynum

If you’re a Carolina fan and you don’t like winning ugly or frequently yelling at your television, it might be a good time to opt out of the season.

For the second consecutive game, UNC navigated through all sorts of ugliness from bad shots to turnovers to defensive breakdowns to earn an ACC win. This time, the Tar Heels won 67–65 Tuesday at Miami on a baseline drive by Andrew Platek with three seconds left.

It was the first time since consecutive victories over Kentucky and Oregon during the Tar Heels’ run to the 2017 NCAA title that they have won two consecutive games by two points or fewer.

“I hope what we played like out there tonight is not our identity,” Platek said. “We’re still figuring it out, which is frustrating. Being a four-year guy, knowing what we want to do and not being able to commit to anything, whether it’s offense or defense. I don’t think we’re playing that well or that poorly defensively. There are still so many little things we can do better.”

Instead of calling a timeout, Coach Roy Williams let the Tar Heels play with a tie game and 20 seconds left. Platek took a pass from Leaky Black, drove by Isaiah Wong and scored over Matt Cross to win the game.  

Andrew Platek scores the game-winner against Miami’s Isaiah Wong and Matt Cross.

“If he commits to Leaky and kicks to me, I’m gonna shoot it,” Platek said. “But he kind of played the drive pretty well so he went out on me. So, I just drove the baseline because I saw the angle on Cross, and I knew I could get a shot. I don’t know if it’s the best shot we could have gotten but it went in and we won.”

It was only because Williams didn’t call a timeout that Platek was even in the game. Platek on defense and Kerwin Walton on offense had been platooning in the final minutes. 

Somehow, UNC (7–4) evened its ACC record to 2–2 to overcome some numbers that won’t win you many games: 20 turnovers, 23 fouls and only 21 field goals. For the second consecutive game, the Tar Heels shot less than 40% from the floor in both halves (34.4% for the game). UNC shot 29.3% on 2-point field-goal attempts. Last season’s team only had one 20-turnover game but this team has already done it twice.

The common thread in the last two wins is big shots by Leaky Black, who beat Notre Dame on a late drive Saturday. Against Miami (4–5, 0–4 ACC), he scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers, both career-highs, and hit a key 3-pointer with 1:42 left. 

Where would the Tar Heels have been Tuesday without Black, whose best scoring games before Tuesday were a pair of 10-point efforts (Stanford and Georgia Tech)? For a time, he seemed to be carrying the team. His four 3s were more than he made in the entire season before Tuesday.

“I think it’s just confidence,” Black said. “I don’t think we could play any worse than what we did in the N.C. State game or last year, so I feel like you’ve got to have confidence. You need to score points, so it was my night.’’

Black’s performance wasn’t what you’d expect from him. Terrific shooting but surprising mistakes on the defensive end. Williams said that this wasn’t the best game Black has played as a Tar Heel, just the best he has shot.

“He can be much better defensively and he can make better decisions with the ball,” said Williams, who started to go with Black at point guard because of the shooting woes of Caleb Love (1 of 9) and RJ Davis (1 of 5).

“Those guys are going to be really good basketball players,” Williams said. “They’ve got to decide to do it before I die. They’ve just got to start making better decisions with their turnovers and at the same time make some more shots.”

Love had as many turnovers as assists (4) and Davis had no assists and three turnovers. Black was a little better with three assists and two turnovers.

Day’Ron Sharpe followed up his 25-point game against Notre Dame with 12 points and 16 rebounds. That is tied for the second-most rebounds by a UNC freshman behind the 20 Antawn Jamison pulled down against Virginia in 1996.

Walton scored 13 points and made three 3-pointers as UNC went 9 of 20 from 3-point range, the most 3s in a game this season.

It was only thanks to making 5 of 11 3-point attempts that the Tar Heels managed to lead 32–30 at halftime after turning the ball over more times (11) than their number of field goals (9). It was a Walton 3-pointer with 5:03 left in the first half that ended a stretch of 11 consecutive misses. 

The sloppy play helped Miami go on a 12–3 run to take a 53–43 lead with 12:03 left on a pair of Harlond Beverly free throws.

Miami got cold, going scoreless for 6:37 before Wong’s two free throws with 58 seconds left.

“I think just attention to detail. I don’t think necessarily anything changed,” Black said of that stretch, remembering what he told his teammates during a time out with three minutes left. “I was just like, yo, we’re playing the worst game we could possibly play right now, and we’re only down by four. Let’s just get one stop at a time and let’s just see what happens. Everyone just bought in.” 

A 3-point play on a drive with 5:35 left by Sharpe, who had his second double-double of the season, along with his follow shot with 5:02 left cut Miami’s lead to 61–57. Love’s first bucket of the game, a 3-pointer, trimmed the deficit 61–60 with 2:52 left.

Black’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:42 left capped a 13–2 run to give the Tar Heels a 63–61 lead. 

After Wong’s free throws, Garrison Brooks made two free throws with 46 seconds left to put UNC up 65–63 and then Cross quickly turned it over.

Wong tied it with 14 seconds left before Platek won it on his baseline drive.

UNC returns home at 7 p.m. Saturday to face Clemson (ESPN), which beat N.C. State at home in overtime on Tuesday 74–70.

North Carolina 67, Miami 65

Pool photos by Eric Espada


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