By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — For one half, it looked like it might be a night where Carolina starts the early process of flipping the switch on the season. As one 3-point attempt after another rattled off the rim in the second half, it was apparent that Miami would have none of that.
By the time the Tar Heels tried to fight back in the last 10 minutes, it was too late as No. 15 Miami held on for an 80–72 victory Monday at the Smith Center.
For the first time since 1955, UNC has lost at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons.
“First half we were able to get to the basket a little bit more,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “I felt good because we were still attacking the basket and getting it to Armando [Bacot]. In the second half, we tried to do that, and they did a better job of closing out in the paint. The only way that you could open that up was to make some shots and we just weren’t able to do that.”
Making shots was a major issue.
Carolina (16–10, 8–7 ACC), came into the game No. 307 in the country in 3-point shooting percentage and shot like it, finishing 5 of 31 from outside the arc for a season-low 16.1%.
RJ Davis (23 points) and Caleb Love (20 points) each scored a pair of 3-pointers but needed 19 combined attempts to get them. The rest of the team was 1 of 12.
Carolina found out in the first half why Miami is the 185th-best two-point field-goal percentage defensive team in the country, repeatedly finding driving lanes to produce layups. But the Tar Heels didn’t have the same kind of success after halftime, when they attempted 20 3-pointers, only making four. Carolina shot 68.6% (24 of 35) on two-point attempts.
“They packed in, and it was hard for us to get downhill,” Love said. “We kicked it out, and we didn’t hit the shots. We’ve just got to hit shots. That’s what it was the whole night.”
The Hurricanes (21–5, 12–4), meanwhile, shot 46.2% from 3-range and made 22 of 26 free-throw attempts, led by Jordan Miller (24 points) and Nijel Pack (23 points, four 3-pointers).
“I thought in the second half, they dared us to make shots and knock down shots, and it just didn’t go our way,” said Bacot, who scored 10 of his 12 points and got five of his six shots in the first half. Some of the latter was because he only played 14 minutes after halftime because of foul trouble.
RJ Davis said that when Miami started hard-hedging more on screens, it made it more challenging for the Heels to reverse the ball and find open spaces.
“That allows them to get back to the paint,” Davis said. “Any time you dribbled, they swarmed in the second half and made it harder for us to get in the paint. We had drive-and-kick opportunities to knock it down, and the shots just didn’t fall.”
That wasn’t good news for a Carolina team that plays its best basketball when the pick-and-roll is clicking.
“I think we were able to get what we wanted in the first half,” RJ Davis said. “In the second half, I felt like we just settled, didn’t get the ball in the paint to Mondo enough or just drive from the guards to the wings. We’ve got to be better on that.”
Love looked very frustrated with how he and the rest of the team shot from the perimeter one game after the Tar Heels scored 15 3-pointers in Saturday’s 91–71 home win over Clemson.
“It was tough,” Love said. “Because you know we did shoot the ball well two days ago and it just didn’t fall out tonight. We took open shots. We weren’t really jacking bad shots, that’s just what it was.”
It all unraveled for the Tar Heels in a 5½-minute stretch of the second half. When it was over, Miami had a 14-point lead with 11:36 left after a 15–2 run – including nine points from Pack — and Bacot had picked up his third and fourth fouls on questionable calls.
It was a scramble for UNC after that. The Heels cut their deficit to nine points four times but didn’t get closer until RJ Davis’ second consecutive 3-pointer (deficit eight, 3:04 left), a Black baseline drive (seven, 1:29), two Davis free throws (five, 1:10) and a Love 3 cut the deficit to four with 34.9 seconds left. That was as close as the Heels would get, though.
“They are disappointed that we didn’t win,” Coach Davis said. “That is a normal reaction from any player or any coach. How do you respond or move forward is to get back up and go to work, compete, and to put yourself in a position to compete to the best of your ability in the next game. We weren’t good enough to beat Miami tonight. It is what it is. Let’s go back to work and see if we can get better this week and put ourselves in a position to play against a really good N.C. State team on their home floor.”
Mostly because of Leaky Black’s defense, Miami’s Isaiah Wong only scored 10 points. Black collected 13 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Carolina missed 10 of its first 15 shots and fell behind 16–10 on a Miller three-point play. UNC tied it at 18 with a Black drive to cap an 8–2 run. A Bacot layup gave UNC a 31–28 lead, but Miami outscored the Heels 7–3 to take a 35–34 halftime edge.
Bacot knows the reality of Carolina’s plight if it is going to make the NCAA tournament. That’s the goal and he says he’s “100% worried” about making the field.
“Everybody in the building knows what’s at stake,” Bacot said, who said he is fine after hurting his back late in the first half. “I believe we are a tournament team but, at the end of the day, we’ve got to show it. Just got to win. We’ve got to figure something out.”
NOTES — Carolina travels to No. 23 N.C. State (20–6, 10–5) this weekend to go for the season sweep after beating the Wolfpack 80–69 in Chapel Hill on Jan. 21. It is a rare Sunday game because of the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stadium Series game Saturday against the Washington Capitals at Carter-Finley Stadium. State plays at Syracuse at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ACC Network). … Carolina’s previous-worst 3-point shooting game was 3 of 18 (16.7%) in the 70–64 loss to Iowa State on Nov. 25. … Carolina scored two fast-break points, which equaled the season-low (also against Gardner-Webb and Virginia). … Puff Johnson’s two points were all of Carolina’s bench points, the fewest since it had one point against N.C. State on Jan. 21, after averaging 20 points in the previous last two games, including 25 points vs. Clemson. … Shammond Williams, Rasheed Wallace and Larry Brown were at the game. … Miami won its second straight game against UNC after losing the previous five, with its first win in the Smith Center since a 91–88 win on senior night in 2018. Carolina leads the series 26–10, including 19–9 since the Canes joined the ACC. UNC is 12–5 against Miami in Chapel Hill, with each game in the Smith Center.
No. 15 Miami 80, UNC 72
UNC lineup combinations
|No. 16 Miami||15–5||24–6|
|No. 13 Virginia||15–5||23–6|
|No. 25 Pittsburgh||14–6||21–10|
Duke 62, North Carolina 57
No. 13 Virginia 75, Louisville 60
Georgia Tech 73, Boston College 65
Virginia Tech 82, Florida State 60
Syracuse 72, Wake Forest 63
No. 26 Miami 78, No. 25 Pittsburgh 76
Clemson 87, Notre Dame 64
End of regular season
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 1 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 21 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 14 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||No. 12 Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||L, 92–85||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||15–9, |
|11||Saturday||W, 91–71||Clemson||Home|| 16–9, |
|13||Monday||L, 80–72||No. 16 Miami||Home||16–10, |
|19||Sunday||L, 77–69||N.C. State||Raleigh||16–11, |
|22||Wednesday||W, 63–59||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||17–11, |
|25||Saturday||W, 71–63||No. 14 Virginia||Home||18–11, |
|27||Monday||W, 77–66||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||19–11, |
|4||Saturday||L, 62–57||No. 12 Duke||Home||19–12,|
|8||Wednesday||W, 85–61||Boston College||Greensboro||20–12|
|9||Thursday||L, 68–59||No. 14 Virginia||Greensboro||20–13|
Photo via @UNC_Basketball