This wasn’t what University of Miami coach Jim Larrañaga expected.
The 11th-ranked Hurricanes had won five in a row to climb into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with No. 5 North Carolina.
But they never looked like themselves on a struggle-filled Saturday afternoon.
When it was over, North Carolina had led by as many as 38 points on the way to a 96-71 victory that had Larrañaga stumped.
Never miss a local story.
“They put the ball in the paint, offensive rebounded — did all the things we talked about before the game,” Larrañaga said. “But I think for some reason, I don’t know exactly what it is and we’ll have to talk to the players about it but … we just didn’t compete at a high enough level.”
There were no shortages of breakdowns. The Hurricanes didn’t shoot well, couldn’t slow the Tar Heels and didn’t keep them off the glass. The Hurricanes trailed 42-33 at halftime, then saw North Carolina run off 10 consecutive points to turn it into a rout.
Larrañaga, whose team has a quick turnaround before Monday night’s home game against No. 7 Virginia, said he thought the Hurricanes were in an “individual mode” instead of playing as a team, while star guard Sheldon McClellan said the Hurricanes “didn’t execute the game plan at all.”
“Even in the first half, we just weren’t playing like ourselves at both ends of the floor,” UM guard Angel Rodriguez said. “A lot of stuff happened that’s just not really us. But I guess there are days like that.”
Brice Johnson had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Tar Heels regrouped after an emotional loss to rival Duke.
Justin Jackson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (22-5, 11-3), who shot 54 percent and shut down the Hurricanes at every turn.
The Tar Heels were coming off Wednesday’s crushing 74-73 home loss to the Blue Devils, a game in which they led nearly all night only to lose control in the final three minutes. And that allowed the Hurricanes (21-5, 10-4) to climb into a first-place tie to set up a critical showdown in a wide-open league title chase.
It turned into a dud, thanks to the Tar Heels turning in the kind of dominating performance they haven’t shown consistently this season — the kind that reminded people why they were picked as the nation’s top-ranked team in the preseason.
Six players scored in double figures, while the Tar Heels made 9 of 20 three-point attempts only three days after going 1 for 13 from behind the arc against the Blue Devils. UNC also dominated the glass by a 46-29 margin, committed just nine turnovers and flirted with its second 100-point performance this season.
Johnson even made a shot from his own charge circle, only it came well after the halftime horn.
As for the Hurricanes, they managed just five shots and five turnovers over an eight-minute stretch while the Tar Heels went on a blowout-producing run.
Rodriguez and Ivan Cruz Uceda scored 12 points each to lead the Canes.
UM shot just 42 percent, though it did make nine of its last 11 shots after the outcome was decided to boost that figure.
The Hurricanes struggled from the foul line as well, making just 15 of 26 free throws.
They also lost Ja’Quan Newton in the second half to what Larrañaga said appeared to be a bone bruise in his left shin.
The 25-point margin of victory was North Carolina’s largest against an Associated Press Top 25 team since beating No. 13 Michigan State 98-63 in Detroit in December 2008.
UM also had just nine assists on 25 baskets, with only three assists in the first half.