Preview: Miami pays visit to No. 9 North Carolina in final road game of regular season
TIME: 9 p.m.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina has had quite a bit to celebrate this month and there will be more of a celebration of some sort Tuesday night at the Smith Center.
It’s the final home game for the No. 9 Tar Heels, who face Miami.
That makes it a bittersweet situation because senior guards Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson will say farewell.
“Senior Day will be awfully important,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “What they’ve done for our program is important, hung with us when it was difficult early.”
Berry and Pinson have been members of a pair of teams that played in NCAA championship games, including winning it all last spring.
When they were about to enter college, North Carolina was waiting for the fallout from an academic scandal, so Williams is pleased how their trust in the university and program was rewarded.
“They believed in us,” Williams said. “It worked out very well for them. They’ve been a great group to coach.”
This figures to be a difficult assignment for Miami.
“It’s Senior Day at North Carolina,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “We’re expecting a vocal crowd, very enthusiastic.”
North Carolina (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) can still catch Duke for the second place and the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament.
“We’ve put ourselves in position to get one of those byes,” Williams said. “The best way to do that is if we take care of business.”
The Tar Heels hold a season-best six-game winning streak, withstanding a busy stretch earlier this month. They were idle from games during the past weekend after Pinson and Berry combined for 41 points in a 78-74 win at Syracuse on Wednesday.
“We had some time off,” Williams said. “We had a couple of good practices and hopefully gets us ready for a Miami team that certainly has a lot of things to play for, but so do we.”
Miami (20-8, 9-7) has won two in a row following a three-game skid after getting a 79-78 win over Boston College on Saturday. The Hurricanes are 4-4 in ACC road games.
“Every game is a new adventure,” Larranaga said. “It just depends on how you match up and how your kids play that day.”
Williams said it’s possible that the Hurricanes are playing their best basketball right now.
North Carolina leads the ACC in rebounding at 43.1 rebounds per game, while Miami ranks in the bottom third of the conference in rebounding at 35.3 per contest
The Hurricanes have used a taller lineup recently, though Larranaga said Monday that the personnel groupings for this game continue to be discussed among his staff.
North Carolina has turned to a smaller lineup for stretches and that could make for some tough matchups.
“They’ve got a very versatile team with a lot of 3-point shooting,” Larranaga said.
Pinson had struggled with shooting from the perimeter at times this season, but he drained two 3-point baskets for the first time this season last week at Syracuse. That marked only his second game in a two-season span with more than one 3-pointer in a game.
Pinson is more of a play maker, leading the Tar Heels in assists 19 times this season and 40 times in his career.
North Carolina leads Miami 21-7 in the all-time series, though the Hurricanes won last season’s meeting. They’re scheduled for only one matchup again this season.