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MBB Falls to North Carolina, 67-65

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The shorthanded University of Miami men’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaking 67-65 decision to North Carolina Tuesday night at the Watsco Center, its third straight setback by two points or fewer.

Playing without all four of their returning starters due to injury, the Hurricanes still managed to turn in a staunch defensive performance, but it was not enough. Freshman guard Earl Timberlake paced Miami in scoring for the first time, recording 12 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists, five steals and two blocks.

“These last three ACC conference regular season games [have been] very tough to swallow. We had our chances—multiple chances to win these games and just keep coming up a little bit short,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I think our guys fought valiantly and put ourselves in position to win. We had a 10-point lead in the second half, but Carolina kept coming and the press bothered us, which it shouldn’t have. All we had to do was catch the ball.”

After a sluggish start by both teams that featured 13 combined turnovers in the opening 8:03, North Carolina (7-4, 2-2 ACC) took a 14-8 edge with 11:41 on the first-half clock. The Hurricanes, however, countered with a 13-2 burst in 4:47 that included eight straight points, surging to a 21-16 edge with 4:41 to play in the half.

The Tar Heels went 5:19 without a point and 7:11 without a field goal, missing 11 consecutive attempts, before closing the frame strong to take a 32-30 advantage into the locker room. Both teams shot under 40 percent in the frame, but North Carolina posted a 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) mark from deep compared to the Hurricanes’ 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) tally.

Miami (4-5, 0-4 ACC) used a 19-6 run early in the second half to go in front, 53-43, with 12:03 to play. After the Tar Heels answered with seven straight points, the Hurricanes scored the next six and led by nine, 59-50, with 7:35 to play.

The tide began to turn when redshirt senior center Nysier Brooks fouled out with 5:35 remaining on a three-point play by North Carolina freshman forward/center Day’Ron Sharpe that made it 59-55.

“Nysier was negating their post play and getting some defensive rebounds and was a target inside and got several baskets in and around the rim,” Larrañaga said. “So, losing him was a huge loss, but the main thing is we didn’t handle the full court press very well.”

After a pair of free throws by Timberlake to stretch the lead back up to six, North Carolina went on an 8-0 run, capped by a pair of 3-pointers, to take a 63-61 lead with 1:42 on the clock. Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong tied the game with a pair of free throws with 58 ticks left and, after two shots from the line at the other end, did so again with a jump-shot with 14 seconds remaining.

North Carolina senior guard Andrew Platek, however, connected on a shot from the baseline with three seconds left to put the Tar Heels in front for good, as sophomore guard Harlond Beverly’s full-court heave rimmed out.

Timberlake, who led all players in assists and steals in addition to his team-high in points, became the first Miami freshman with at least five steals in a game since Shane Larkin did so on Jan. 10, 2012, against North Carolina.

Senior guard Elijah Olaniyi, in his first game at Miami as a reserve, scored 11 points and went 4-of-4 at the line. Brooks totaled 10 points and a team-best six rebounds in just 21 minutes of action.

Junior guard/forward Rechon “Leaky” Black led all scorers with 16 points for the Tar Heels. He shot 4-of-4 from 3-point range after entering the night 3-of-15 on the season.

Freshman guard Kerwin Walton scored 13 points, while Sharpe logged 12 points and a game-best 16 rebounds, the most by a Miami foe since November 2019. The Hurricanes held senior forward Garrison Brooks, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, to six points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Despite playing a team with a frontcourt boasting Brooks and three McDonald’s All-Americans, Miami had a 32-24 edge in paint points and limited the Tar Heels to 34.4 percent (21-of-61) shooting. The Hurricanes also logged 14 steals, their most since Dec. 23, 2012, against No. 4/5 Arizona in Honolulu.

However, the decisive stat proved to be 3-point percentage. North Carolina, which entered the night shooting a 28.7 clip on the year, went 9-of-20 (45.0 percent) from deep, setting a season high in both makes and percentage. Meanwhile, Miami registered a 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) tally from deep.

“This is a really nice group of guys, they like each other, they get along well. The coaches like the players,” Larrañaga said. “We’ve just had so much adversity with injuries and the most challenging part is being able to prepare for an opponent. Kam McGusty practiced yesterday, but he couldn’t even go today. Chris Lykes hasn’t been on the court for over a month now. So, those are our two leading returning scorers and Sam Waardenburg [and Rodney Miller Jr. are both] out for the season. We need to get Chris and Kam back.”

The Hurricanes now have back-to-back road games, the first of which comes Saturday at noon against NC State, with action set to be televised live on RSN from Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.

To keep up with the University of Miami men’s basketball team on social media, follow @CanesHoops on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The 2020-21 Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball season is presented by First National Bank.

MIAMI HURRICANES POSTGAME NOTES
– The Hurricanes moved to 8-26 all-time against North Carolina, including 3-10 at home and 6-10 in Larrañaga’s tenure.
– Larrañaga, who entered the game tied for the 10th-most victories of any active Division I coach, is now 664-452 in 37 years as a head coach, including 194-118 in 10 seasons at Miami.
– For the first time this season, Miami used a starting lineup of Beverly, Brooks, Timberlake (first start), Wong and freshman forward Matt Cross.
– Miami once again played without senior guard Chris Lykes (left ankle), redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty (right hamstring), redshirt senior center Rodney Miller Jr. (right knee, season) and redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg (left foot, season).
– Four of Miami’s five losses this season are by a combined nine points, with the last three, all in ACC play, coming by a total of five.
– The Hurricanes are the second team in ACC history, per the Elias Sports Bureau, to lose three straight games by combined total of five points or fewer, joining the 1989-90 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
– The prior lowest combined point total in three consecutive games all lost by Miami in Larrañaga’s tenure was eight, recorded early in the 2018-19 season: two (83-81) to Seton Hall on 11/25/18 in Fullerton, Calif., followed by three (57-54) to Rutgers on 11/28/18 and then by three (57-54) to Yale on 12/1/18 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
– The Hurricanes’ 14 steals marked their second-highest total ever in an ACC game, trailing only the 15 they logged on 1/22/05 at North Carolina.
– The last time the Hurricanes lost a game when leading by double figures was 2/26/19 at Wake Forest, a 76-75 setback.
– Miami dropped to 98-22 in Larrañaga’s tenure when holding its opponent under 40 percent shooting.
– The Hurricanes fell to 178-14 under Larrañaga when leading with 2:00 left, including to 78-9 in ACC competition.
– Miami held North Carolina to just one made field goal in a span of 15 attempts during the first half.
– The Hurricanes went 7:21 without a field goal, missing eight straight shots, before Wong’s game-tying basket with 14 seconds remaining.
– Sharpe is the first Miami opponent to grab 15-plus rebounds in a game since Missouri State’s Tulio Da Silva had 17 on 11/21/19 in Charleston, S.C.
– Sophomore forward Anthony Walker surpassed 150 points, 50 free-throw attempts and 500 minutes played at Miami.
– Brooks, who became the first Hurricane to foul out this season, scored in double figures for the 17th time, including the third this year.
– Olaniyi notched his 62nd double-digit point total, including his third in five appearances at Miami.
– Timberlake, who scored in double figures for the third time in four collegiate outings, became the first ACC player with seven-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists, five-plus steals and two-plus blocks in a game since Florida State’s Chris Singleton on 11/14/10 against UNC Greensboro.
– Timberlake also became the third Hurricane in Larrañaga’s tenure with a 4×5 game, including the first to do so with steals and the first to do so in ACC play.
– In addition, Timberlake became the first Hurricane in the ACC era, since 2004-05, to record five steals in a half.
– Beverly eclipsed 300 points in his career.
– Wong scored eight points, finishing short of double figures for the first time in the Hurricanes’ nine games this year.