North Carolina made their third straight trip to the ACC Title game today after finishing Maryland’s ACC career in a hard fought victory Saturday afternoon and took on Miami for the third time this season. With a win North Carolina would’ve captured their 18th ACC Tournament title and the 700th win of Roy Williams’ hall of fame career. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they lost for the third time in as many years to the Miami Hurricanes in game that was as hard fought as any the Heels had been in all season.
North Carolina finished Saturday afternoon quite sluggishly and, at times, struggled to find a player willing to take a shot late. A late three from Leslie McDonald and a couple runners from Marcus Paige was enough to squeak UNC by the Terps and give the Tar Heels a chance to avenge their previous embarrassment that they went through down in Coral Gables last month. There was certainly nothing sluggish about the play of the Tar Heels in the title game as they started hot and finished hot shooting the basketball especially from three point land.
PJ Hairston, who is just two days removed from eight stitches in his hand, led the way for the Tar Heels with 28 points on 9-16 shooting with six three pointers. Paige and James Michael McAdoo both had nice games as well as they added 17 and 12 point respectively. At the end of the day, even though the Tar Heels couldn’t miss for the majority of the game, Miami just couldn’t miss for a little bit longer. Shane Larkin was incredible as always capping off a tournament worthy for the history books with 28 points and most likely cemented himself as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Trey McKinney-Jones also shared a portion of the spotlight as he added 20 points on the day 18, of which, came from three.
Fortunately for UNC, the loss doesn’t jeopardize their spot in the NCAA Tournament field next weekend. Roy’s squad has floated around a 5-7 seed over the last several weeks and will more than likely remain in one of those spots when the bracket is released at 6 pm EST. Even with a loss in the final, you have to be impressed with the Carolina team who wasn’t supposed to make it as far as they did. They certainly have found their identity and can now look forward and begin to work on making a run towards that coveted national title.