Miami tops UNC to win school’s first ACC title
For 35 minutes, top-seeded Miami and No. 3 seed North Carolina traded blows in a game befitting the ACC Tournament championship. The lead changed hands on eight straight possessions in the first half, and with six minutes left the teams were shooting a combined 23 of 41 (56 percent) from 3-point range.
It seemed like an unsustainable pace, and it was – for the Tar Heels. UNC went cold down the stretch while No. 9 Miami continued hitting shots in an 87-77 win at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Playing in its first ACC final in front of a heavily pro-UNC crowd, Miami (27-6) outscored the Tar Heels 23-10 over the last 7:44 to clinch the ACC title.
UNC (24-10) became only the second team to lose three straight ACC finals, following Maryland (1972-74), as Roy Williams was denied a chance to become the fourth active coach with 700 career wins.
Miami point guard Shane Larkin, who scored at least 20 points
in all three tournament games, won the tournament MVP after recording 28 points and seven assists. His scoring output was matched by UNC’s P.J. Hairston, who went 6 of 13 from long range and showed no ill effects from the eight stitches in his left hand that he received on Friday.
Trey McKinney Jones added 20 points and Durham native Julian Gamble had 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Hurricanes, who started 13-0 in the ACC and won their first outright ACC regular-season title but had lost 3 of 5 heading into the tournament.
“A lot of people said that we peaked too early and we weren’t going to have any chance in the tournament,” Larkin said. “But we stayed together and believed in ourselves.”
Marcus Paige added 17 points and Dexter Strickland had eight assists and six rebounds for UNC, which was trying to avenge a 26-point loss at Miami last month. Paige said watching that defeat Saturday night – which featured a play when Larkin threw a pass off the backboard for Kenny Kadji to dunk – helped the Tar Heels’ mindset heading into the final.
“You watch that and you take it personal when you see them throwing the ball at the backboard and dunking it and getting wild with shots and high-fiving during the game,” Paige said. “So we just wanted to come out with the mindset that we’re a better team than we showed last time… and they probably outplayed us for the last 5 or 6 minutes of the game, but other than that, it was a dog fight.”
While the Tar Heels missed their last six 3-pointers, Miami made 4 of its last 5, including one by McKinney Jones that gave the Hurricanes the lead for good with 6:27 left. The lead was extended to eight as UNC went four minutes without a field goal, and Miami went 8 for 8 from the line in the final minute to seal the win.
“We stayed poised and stayed relentless on the defensive effort,” Gamble said. “They are going to make shots. They have McDonald’s all-Americans on their team. They are a great offensive team. You can’t expect to play in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro against Carolina and not get their best shot. We got their best shot today and we were able to absorb the punch.”
Hairston said he didn’t think the Tar Heels could play any better than they did in the first 35 minutes, but it didn’t last. Miami actually used UNC’s strategy against it, going with a four-guard lineup to try to match up with the Tar Heels’ shooters.
UNC had gone to a smaller lineup after the Miami loss and had won 8 of 9 into the ACC final. The new-look rotation made for a closer game on Sunday, but it couldn’t change the outcome, with Miami beating UNC for a third time this season.
Winston-Salem native and Miami senior Reggie Johnson clutched the championship trophy in the postgame locker room.
“The reason I can’t really let go of this trophy is winning this means more than winning the NCAA trophy to people in North Carolina,” Johnson said. “(The Tar Heels) have 17 of these, so they can afford to lose one.”
No. 9 MIAMI 87, NORTH CAROLINA 77
Percentages: FG .450, FT .909.
3-Point Goals: 13-29, .448 (Hairston 6-13, Paige 3-6, Bullock 3-8, McDonald 1-2).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 0.
Turnovers: 9 (Hairston 3, McAdoo 2, Bullock, Paige, Strickland).
Steals: 6 (Hairston 2, Paige 2, Strickland, Bullock).
Technical Fouls: None.
McKinney Jones 35|7-11|0-0|0-4|3|0|20
Percentages: FG .508, FT .750.
3-Point Goals: 12-22, .545 (McKinney Jones 6-9, Larkin 4-7, Brown 2-3, Scott 0-1, Kadji 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Gamble 3).
Turnovers: 8 (Gamble 3, Larkin 3, Scott, Kadji).
Steals: 6 (McKinney Jones 3, Larkin 2, Scott).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Brian Kersey, Mike Eades, Roger Ayers.v