Tar Heels get defensive with Hurricanes

Tar Heels get defensive with Hurricanes

Published Jan. 10, 2012 11:11 p.m. ET

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Yeah, North Carolina can play

Granted, Miami was at times sloppy with the ball and attempted too many
ill-advised shots Tuesday night, but the Tar Heels were plenty stingy in
defeating the ‘Canes 73-56.

Good thing UNC buckled down on defense, because its offense was invisible.
Carolina went through stretches where it couldn't hit the broad side of a barn
no matter how open the Heels were.

Harrison Barnes was 2-for-12 from the field, while bigs John Henson and Tyler
Zeller combined to convert just 11-of-24 field-goal attempts. For the night,
Carolina converted just 44.9 percent of its shots.

Conversely, UNC held Miami to 41.8 percent, though that figure doesn't reflect
what happened in the decisive period of the contest. When the shots aren't
falling, a team better D it up, especially in the ACC.

That's what the Tar Heels did.

"We weren't hitting our shots, but great players and great teams don't
have their defensive intensity dictated by how their shooting," UNC
sophomore Reggie Bullock said. "That's part of maturing as players and as
a team, and we're way past that."

Carolina (15-2, 2-0 ACC) had some early issues trying to stop Miami big men
Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson. The bruising tandem scored 13 of Miami’s first
17 points, helping the ‘Canes to a one-point lead. But over the next 37
possessions that extended into the second half, the Hurricanes managed to
convert just seven shots from the field while the Tar Heels built a 21-point

"Malcolm Grant is really hard to guard, and I thought Dexter (Strickland)
and Reggie (Bullock) really bothered him," said UNC coach Roy Williams,
whose team registered 10 steals on the night. "There's no question that
Malcolm could go off for 50 the next game, but I do believe that our defense
was important to us."

Miami committed 11 turnovers in the stretch and really looked downright awful
at times. No doubt the ‘Canes contributed to the ugliness, but Carolina
deserves big-time credit, too. A sloppy pass isn't always simply a sloppy pass,
it often can be a residual effect of a team's defensive intensity becoming a
mental thing for its opponent.

That appeared to be what the ‘Canes went through during Carolina's stiffest
defensive stretch. Given that the Hurricanes have veteran ACC guards in Grant,
a senior, and junior Durand Scott, adds to the impressiveness of UNC's efforts.

"I thought Carolina was very, very sharp, especially at the defensive end
of the floor, and took our perimeter play right out of our offense," Miami
coach Jim Larranaga said. "Right after the first TV timeout on, we had
only one field goal from our guards for the rest of the first half."

After the victory Williams stressed that his team is much more accurate from
the field than it was on this night and he expects the shooting to pick up. He
also hinted that playing a school-record ninth consecutive game at home may have contributed to some stale play from his club.

But that wasn't reflected in its defensive intensity.

"Hey, you have to play defense to win against good
team, and we know that," Henson said. "It's not just about blocking
shots or one guy stopping another. It's a collective thing, and we are getting