Hot shooting carries Miami in rout
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP)
The Miami Hurricanes played so well Saturday they earned a standing ovation from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
With the Heat stars watching from the front row, the eighth-ranked Hurricanes put on another show at home, making a school record-tying 15 3-pointers and extending their winning streak to 11 games by beating North Carolina 87-61.
Sophomore Shane Larkin had 18 points and a career-high nine assists for the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders, who built margins of 9-0 and 44-27 en route to another rout. They improved to 11-0 at home, where each of the past four wins have been by at least 22 points.
''It's crazy — I see how great of a team we can be,'' Miami guard Durand Scott said. ''We're just rolling.''
Such success is unprecedented for the Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who set a school record for ACC victories in a season with eight games still to go. They are the last unbeaten team in league play among the major conferences.
North Carolina (16-7, 6-4), which began the season 18-2 against the Hurricanes, lost to them for the second time in four weeks.
''Everybody from North Carolina always thinks it's just about North Carolina,'' Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. ''It's not. Miami is pretty dadgum good.''
Word is spreading, and the attendance-challenged Hurricanes drew a sellout crowd for the third in the past four home games. James and Wade, accompanied by teammate James Jones, were on their feet several times to join the cheers.
''It was definitely a fun thing to have them come to a game,'' Larkin said. ''It's a great feeling knowing people at that level are realizing what you're doing.''
Coach Jim Larranaga said he received a phone call early in the week requesting tickets for the Heat players.
''I told them, `Sorry, it's sold out.' But then we said, `We think we can fit you in.' For our recruiting purposes, it gives us a lot of credibility when we tell them we're a hot ticket in town and our program is headed in the right direction,'' he said.
Another climb in the polls for the Hurricanes is likely next week, which would mean their best ranking ever. They have never been higher than No. 8, and achieved that spot this week for the first time in 53 years.
Players have begun fielding questions about prospect of being ranked No. 1.
''That would be lovely,'' Scott said, ''but that's not going to change our focus or determination.''
Their aim was true Saturday. The Hurricanes made 13 of their first 19 3-point tries and finished 15 for 26 from beyond the arc.
''All of a sudden they started making every shot,'' Williams said. ''A lot of teams couldn't stand out there with no defense on the court and make 15 out of 26.''
Larkin tied a career high with five 3-pointers in eight attempts, including one when tightly guarded by Marcus Paige.
''I yelled, `Good defense, Marcus,' and it went right in,'' Williams said.
Larkin earned an assist on the game's most spectacular play, lofting a pass off the glass on a fast break to set up a throwdown dunk by Kenny Kadji for a 70-46 lead.
''Kenny said, `Backboard, backboard,''' Larkin said. ''I didn't see anybody behind him, so I tossed it off the backboard really soft, and he killed it.''
Miami's smothering defense did the rest, flustering a team averaging an ACC-best 79.1 points per game. Julian Gamble led the way with four blocks, and the Tar Heels were so discombobulated that on one inbounds pass, two of their players collided away from the ball and went sprawling.
Kadji and Scott each had 17 points and six rebounds for the Hurricanes, who shot 54 percent, the best against North Carolina this season.
Reggie Bullock led the Tar Heels with 14 points, while James Michael McAdoo totaled only six, nine below his average.
North Carolina, playing in new throwback uniforms, looked out of sorts from the start. The Hurricanes made layups on three consecutive possessions to take a 9-0 lead after only two minutes.
The Hurricanes' defense was so good they committed turnovers on five consecutive possessions and still led 13-2. They hit six 3-pointers over the final 5:04 of the first half to go ahead 44-27.
Five minutes into the second half, the margin was 59-33. It was such a clean performance by the Hurricanes that they played 24 minutes before either team shot a free throw.
''The guys just never let up,'' Larranaga said, ''and that is the mark of a good team.''