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Heel Tough Blog: Miami Recap

It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t the way many envisioned, but Carolina improved to 22-6, and 14-3 in the ACC, after dispatching Miami 75-71 in the Smith Center on Monday night. Simply put, if Carolina didn’t have R.J. Davis, they wouldn’t have won the game, as Davis not only set a new career-high but set a new Smith Center record, scoring 42 points, literally willing Carolina to a win. Davis scored 21 points in each half, as he was simply unconscious, going 14-22 from the field, including 7-11 from behind the three-point line. Of course, this performance came after he scored 12 points in the win at Virginia on Saturday, but was just 1-14 from the floor. Davis was the only Tar Heel to reach double figures, with Harrison Ingram being the second leader scorer, with 8 points. Carolina won despite shooting 44% from the field, 35% from behind the arc, and 57% from the foul line, all while allowing a short-handed Miami team to make 14 three-pointers, and shoot 47% from behind the arc as a team. 

Miami had entered tonight’s game on a six-game losing streak, including four straight on the road. To make matters worse, they were without two starters in Nijel Pack and Wooga Poplar, but there’s a lot of pride in their program, led by their head coach, and they weren’t going to roll over and play dead. While Carolina controlled the game virtually from the opening tip, Norchad Omier and Bensley Joseph kept them in it and never allowed Carolina to blow them out of the water. 

After Davis had a stretch of multiple made three-pointers, Carolina took a 72-59 lead with less than four minutes left to play, like they did at Miami two weeks ago, they didn’t close the game out properly. There was a possession where Carolina failed to get the ball across the timeline in less than 10 seconds, followed by an errant pass on an inbound, which led to a Joseph three, and before you knew it, the game was 72-70. After an Omier miss that would’ve tied the game, Davis drew a foul, but only made 1 of 2 foul shots, making it a 73-70 game. Hubert Davis opted to foul, and Miami connected on 1 of 2, making it a 73-71 game. Armando Bacot and Seth Trimble would combine to miss four straight free throws, but an offensive rebound from Jae’Lyn Withers after the Trimble miss put him at the foul line, where he eventually iced the game away. 

At this point in the season, how you win isn’t nearly as important as long as you win, and while that’s the case tonight, Hubert Davis made it known in his post-game interview on the Tar Heel Sports Network that he isn’t thrilled with tonight’s performance. Here’s what to take away from an uneven Tar Heel win:

  1. R.J. Davis Makes History: If Davis hadn’t already locked up ACC Player of the Year honors, he certainly did tonight, scoring a career-high 42 points, setting a new high in the Dean Dome. Tyler Hansborugh had owned the mark, after scoring 40 in a win over Georgia Tech back in 2006. Davis became the first Tar Heel to score more than 40 since Shammond Williams scored 42 in a double overtime game back in 1998. The last player to score more than 42 points, was Charlie Scott, who scored 43 points against Wake Forest in 1970. The fact he scored 42 points in 34 minutes is even more impressive, but Carolina needed every bucket from its best player. 

  2. Offensive Rebounds: If Carolina doesn’t grab 10 offensive rebounds, it’s hard to imagine a way they win tonight’s game, considering they scored second-chance points off of them. It wasn’t just Jae’Lyn Withers grabbing key offensive rebounds off missed free throws, Davis grabbed both of his misses, to help preserve the win. When Bacot and Trimble were missing free throws left and right, but Carolina was securing offensive rebounds, it felt like the win over Oregon in the 2017 Final Four, when Carolina missed multiple foul shots, but Theo Pinson and Kennedy Meeks grabbed offensive rebounds to send the team to the national championship game, on its way to a national title. 

  3. Points in the Paint: Even with Armando Bacot being an absolute non-factor in the game, Carolina still managed to score 36 points in the paint, doubling Miami in that category. With that in mind, it doesn’t make a lot of sense that UNC hoisted up 26 three-pointers, as Miami had no answer on the inside. As much as Davis was hot from deep, he also made 7 two-point shots, many of them coming in the paint, as he was the only player who understood how to attack Miami it appeared. 

  4. Four Minute Offense: For this team to be a national title contender, they need to get better at closing out games, and tonight was another example of that. After Davis hit a barrage of triples to make it 72-59, Carolina seemingly quit playing, giving up an 11-0 run, having to sweat out a game that had no business being in that situation. Not getting the ball across the timeline in 10 seconds is inexcusable, and the way they struggled with pressure in the backcourt is confusing, considering how often they’ve seen it this season. In the win at Miami, Carolina didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:07 of the game. Tonight? Carolina didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:17. 

  5. Free Throws: Another reason why this game was closer than it should’ve been was all the points Carolina left at the foul line, where they were 12-21. Bacot, who entered the game as an 80% free throw shooter, was just 1-6. Seth Trimble was 1-3, and even R.J. Davis, for as great as he was tonight, was 7-9. It’s not often you win a conference game when you shoot 57% from the foul line, which is why Carolina should consider themselves lucky. 

  6. Turnovers: Turning the ball over hasn’t been an issue at home, but tonight it was, as Carolina turned it over 12 times, leading to 21 points for Miami. Entry passes were a huge problem, as every time Carolina tried to get the ball inside, it was off target, and it led to a runout the other way for Miami. Every starter committed at least one turnover, led by Harrison Ingram, and his three miscues. On the flip side, Carolina did force 14 turnovers but only scored 13 points off of them. 

  7. Three-Point Defense: You knew coming in that the only way Miami could compete, let alone win, was if they had a big night from the perimeter, and that was the case, as they went 14-30 from deep, even without Pack and Poplar. Joseph and George combined to make 9 triples, fueling Miami’s offense from the start. After being so well connected at UVA on Saturday, tonight was a step back for Carolina’s perimeter defense, even though it was the best in the league entering tonight’s game. 

Up Next: Carolina is back at home on Saturday, when they host NC State, looking for a sweep of the Wolfpack Tip is scheduled for 4 PM on ESPN.


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