Miami loses to No. 8 North Carolina 73-64

Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga and his players visited

campus dorms this week inviting students to Wednesday night’s game

against North Carolina, and a near-capacity crowd showed up.

For much of the game, Miami had a shot at the kind of upset that

might keep fans coming back.

But the Hurricanes squandered an eight-point lead in the second

half, went nearly five minutes without a point down the stretch and

lost to the No. 8 Tar Heels 73-64.

”It was a missed chance for us to make the next step,”

Hurricanes center Reggie Johnson said. ”The crowd was good. I like

that a lot. But we came up short in the end.”

Miami (15-9, 6-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost to the Tar

Heels for the 18th time in their 20 meetings, including two defeats

this year.

”We played a very solid first half,” Larranaga said. ”But we

never played great, and what we’re looking for is for this team to

become a great team.”

Fan chants of ”Aus-tin Ri-vers” down the stretch failed to

rattle the Tar Heels. Rivers hit a 3-point buzzer-beater last week

to cap a furious rally and help Duke beat North Carolina.

The crowd of 7,071 was Miami’s largest at home this season.

Larranaga and his players visited campus dorms Monday, passed out

chicken wings and T-shirts and encouraged students to attend the

game.

”We want our students to feel like school spirit is an

important part of your college life,” Larranaga said.

The Tar Heels, who came in averaging 83.5 points, shot only 38

percent and went 5 for 18 from 3-point range. But they forced

turnovers on four consecutive possessions in the second half to get

back in the game.

”Defensively we can be a very good team,” said North Carolina

center Tyler Zeller, who was held to nine points but made three

steals. ”We can win games in the 50s and 60s. And when we start

making shots, hopefully we can win by a bigger margin.”

North Carolina (22-4, 9-2) took a half-game lead over Duke and

Florida State atop the ACC standings.

”It was one of those wins you have to have to have a fantastic

year,” coach Roy Williams said. ”It was a tough win, it was an

ugly win in some ways. To be able to grit it out defensively – we

did some better things there. That’s a huge benefit to win games

when you play ugly.”

Durand Scott scored 15 points for Miami, and Kenny Kadji added

13 points and seven rebounds. But Malcolm Grant’s shooting slump

continued, and he finished 1 for 6 and scored three points, nine

below his average.

Harrison Barnes led North Carolina with 23 points, including a

trio of 3-pointers in the final 16 minutes. John Henson had 14

points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Tar Heels, who beat

Miami for the 10th time in a row.

Zeller was held seven points below his average and shot 4 for

13. Kendall Marshall went 0 for 6, and while the Tar Heels came up

with some key offensive rebounds, they edged Miami by only six on

the boards.

But they outscored the Hurricanes 14-6 off turnovers.

”When the shots aren’t falling, you’ve got to bring something

else to the table,” guard Reggie Bullock said. ”Hopefully the

shots start falling.”

In three of their past four wins, the Tar Heels have shot under

40 percent.

The Tar Heels sank only five 3-pointers, all in the final 16

minutes. They fell behind 44-36, then used defense to rally.

Turnovers by Miami helped North Carolina score eight consecutive

points and make it 44-all. Barnes’ 3-pointer moments later gave the

Tar Heels their first lead since early in the opening half.

Another 3-pointer by Barnes put North Carolina ahead by five for

the first time, 58-53.

Kadji’s 3-pointer for the Hurricanes cut the margin to 63-58

with 6:10 left, but they then went cold. Bullock’s 3-pointer put

the Tar Heels up 67-58, and they sank four of six free throws in

the final minute to sew up the win.