Improbable Upset Bid Falls Just Short for the Hurricanes
By: Rob Dunning
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Twenty-four hours after one of the more improbable comeback wins in ACC Tournament history, Miami was in line for another memorable win until a late North Carolina run gave the Tar Heels a 61-59 victory over the Hurricanes Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinal round at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Miami (19-14) led by as much as 19 mid-way through the second half but UNC (25-6) closed out the contest on a 27-6 run, capped off by a Tyler Zeller lay-in as time expired. It was Carolina’s only lead of the afternoon.
The `Canes were vying to become the first nine-seed to ever beat a top-seeded team in ACC tournament history.
It just wasn’t meant to be Friday.
The game, which might have well have been played at the Dean Dome with the majority in the packed coliseum wearing Carolina blue, was all Miami’s through the first 30 minutes.
UNC came out sloppy, turning the ball over 14 times in the first half. It got so bad at one point Roy Williams took out his entire line-up and subbed in five walk-ons to prove a point to his stars.
And while the Heels struggled to get out of their own way, Miami was hitting from long range and capitalizing on UNC’s mistakes, holding a 19-to-7 edge in points off turnovers as the `Canes took a 31-22 lead into the half.
Miami slowly began pulling away from UNC in the second half, thanks to a barrage of three-pointers from Adrian Thomas, who hit four in the second half. The lead stretched to 53-34 with 9:55 to play but from there, it was all Carolina.
“We were as lucky as we could possibly be,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “Those kinds of things happen at tournament time. We watched yesterday when there were two or three buckets at the buzzer. We were as bad as we could possibly be for the first 35 minutes.”
The Tar Heels finally got in on the long-range scoring, hitting five down the stretch to go along with six points from Zeller in the final few minutes – including the back-breaker in the end.
On Miami’s end of the court, the `Canes just couldn’t seem to get comfortable on offense as the game wore on.
“They picked the pressure up, but I still thought we got some open looks,” Miami head coach Frank Haith said. “We got the ball in the paint; we just weren’t able to convert.”
One part of the game that often plagues Miami was its ability to convert from the charity stripe, where the `Canes shot just 4-of-7 in the second half.
“We were as lucky as you could possibly be that they missed a couple of free throws, they dropped one of the balls out of bounds, our traps got them a little more tentative than probably Frank wants them to be,” Williams said. “But Frank does a really nice job. They’re hard to play.”
The loss was tough to swallow for the `Canes, who are all too accustomed to playing in these types of games. Whether it was their improbable comeback against the Cavaliers on Thursday, or Friday’s loss to the Heels, Miami has been on both sides of it this year.
It’s a scenario `Canes fans know all too well. Williams has seen it plenty of times before too.
“This was my 800th game as a head coach so I have had a lot of times when I’ve gotten my tail kicked and we have had some close wins and we have had some great comebacks,” Williams said. “This is right up there because of the status of playing in the ACC Tournament.”
In the end, the Heels are moving on and the `Canes are headed home to begin preparing for a likely NIT appearance.
Like last year, Miami showed up in Greensboro. They fought until end and proved their worth yet again.
Unfortunately, it was the Heels’ day today.
“Miami is a great team,” UNC point guard Kendall Marshall said. “I don’t think their record speaks to how good they are. They have had a lot of close losses. Our will to win had to be greater than theirs.”