Beating the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Dean E. Smith Center, where they are 11-2 this season, is never an easy task.
However, the No. 15 Miami Hurricanes were not phased on Monday night, as they pulled out an impressive 80-72 victory over North Carolina. Over half of the Hurricanes’ points came from guards Jordan Miller and Nijel Pack.
“I think it was a good road win and a good statement win,” Miller said. “That we can not only win at home, but we can win on the road too.”
Miller led Miami (21-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)) in scoring and rebounding with a 24-point, 11-rebound performance. Meanwhile, Pack dropped 23 points while hitting four 3-pointers.
“I think Jordan is the most underrated player in the country,” head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “The amount of things he does well on the court makes him a very hard matchup for anybody.”
Because of off-nights from guard Isaiah Wong and forward Norchad Omier, the 47 combined points from Miller and Pack were vital in the eight-point win for the ‘Canes.
Guard R.J. Davis paced the Tar Heels in scoring with 23 points, while fellow guard Caleb Love had 20 points.
Along with Miller and Pack’s stellar nights, Miami’s perimeter defense overwhelmed North Carolina (16-10, 8-7 ACC) for much of the game, as the Tar Heels shot 5 of 31 from 3-point range. North Carolina scored 40 points in the paint but could not overcome its shooting woes from behind the arc.
The Tar Heels kept the game competitive all night, but the ‘Canes stayed composed despite the tough road atmosphere.
The first ten minutes saw the teams go back and forth, as the ‘Canes held an 18-16 lead. Miller got off to a quick start with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
On the defensive side, however, Omier quickly picked up two fouls that left him on the bench for most of the half. Without the 6-foot-7 forward’s presence, North Carolina scored 26 points in the paint in the first half.
Despite North Carolina’s dominance inside, Miami maintained a 35-34 halftime lead thanks to Pack’s 11 points and three 3-pointers. Love led the Tar Heels in first–half scoring with 12 points.
Miller and Pack began the second half on fire, scoring 17 combined points in the first seven minutes to extend Miami’s lead to 54-40. However, the Tar Heels would not go away, as they cut the deficit all the way down to five with just over a minute remaining.
North Carolina resorted to intentional fouling and pulled within four points with 34.9 seconds to go, but in the end, the Hurricanes survived and won their fifth straight game.
Miami will return to Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon to face off against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Tipoff at the Watsco Center is set for 2 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.