. One of the hallmarks of the University of Miami’s hot streak at the end of the season has been its phenomenal play at the end of games.
But Thursday night in an ACC Quarterfinal game against North Carolina, it was mistakes on both ends of the floor in the final four minutes that doomed the Hurricanes in an 82-65 loss at Barclays Center.
A wild game that saw the Hurricanes burst out to a huge early lead, then have to rally from behind, was right there for Miami, trailing 69-65 with 3:50 left.
But that’s when Miami (22-9) fell apart, and the Tar Heels scored the final 13 points of the game.
Four consecutive empty possessions on offense killed the Hurricanes. A missed jumper by Ja’Quan Newton started the problems, followed by a Newton turnover, a missed dunk attempt by Dewan Huell, and a missed driving layup by Chris Lykes.
On the other end North Carolina’s Theo Pinson threw home a monster dunk to spark the final spurt, and Miami never could get its offense going.
In the final four minutes the Hurricanes went 0-for-5 from the floor, committed two turnovers and missed a free throw.
2. Balanced scoring again the way for Canes:Especially since Bruce Brown went down 11 games ago, Miami’s scoring balance has been a huge reason for its late-season surge. And that continued again in the ACC quarterfinals. Nine Hurricanes players scored in the first half, not that surprising as seven Miami players average at least 8.5 points per game.
3. Walker’s gaffe at end of half gives UNC the lead:With as well as Miami played in the first half, it seemed pretty certain the Hurricanes would take a lead into intermission. But with Miami leading 31-29 with :03 left in the half, Lonnie Walker IV inexplicably fouled UNC’s Cameron Johnson while he attempted a half-court desperation heave. After the referees checked the replay it was ruled Johnson was fouled with .4 seconds left in the half, and his three free throws gave North Carolina its first lead of the game going into halftime, 32-31.
4. What a start: In his wildest dreams head coach Jim Larranaga couldn’t have scripted a better start to Thursday night’s game. Miami scored the first 14 points of the game, as the Tar Heels missed their first 12 field goal attempts. UNC coach Roy Williams was so frustrated he pulled his entire starting lineup with the score 14-0, inserting reserves Seventh Woods, Sterling Manley, Brandon Robinson, Andrew Platek and Garrison Brooks.
The Tar Heels didn’t get their first basket until 12:51 was left in the first half.
5. What’s next?:With the loss to North Carolina, Miami will now wait to see where the NCAA Tournament selection committee sends it. Projected to be a No. 6 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS’ Jerry Palm, the Hurricanes will find out Sunday night which bracket and region they’ll go to.
It’s still possible that Hurricanes star Bruce Brown Jr. could see action somewhere along the way in the NCAA Tournament; he’s due to be evaluated again on March 12.