ACC Tournament: Tar Heels advance after beating Miami

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Joel Berry II
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Joel Berry II /

UNC’s win over Miami in the ACC Tournament sets up a third meeting with rival Duke on Friday night

Things didn’t start off well for the North Carolina Tar Heels in Thursday’s quarterfinal against the Miami Hurricanes. UNC didn’t score a point until the 12:51 mark in the first half when sophomore Seventh Woods made a layup.

The Tar Heels fell behind 14-0 and missed their first 14 shot attempts of the game.

That caused Roy Williams to sub out all five of his starters and replace them with five bench players just before the halfway point of the first half. It gave UNC a spark as the bench was able to score five quick points.

Then the starters came back in and UNC got to work.

The Tar Heels were able to rally back and take the lead in the first half, erasing that 14-point deficit. They took a 32-31 lead at halftime after Cameron Johnson made three free throws with .4 left in the half.

They did this all with both Luke Maye and Joel Berry struggling.

The duo combined for just four points in the first half, struggling from the field. But UNC still had the lead and the momentum going into the break.

In the second half, UNC and Miami battled back and forth with neither team running away with the lead. That is until UNC went on a 23-9 run after leading 59-56 and ran away with it to secure their spot in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament.

UNC was led by another impressive performance by senior wing Theo Pinson who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Pinson was all over the floor on Thursday night getting it done on both ends.

The win sets up a third meeting with Duke on Friday with a trip to the ACC Championship on the line. The Blue Devils erased a 10-point halftime deficit last Saturday to beat the Tar Heels in the season finale.

This game is also big for NCAA Tournament seeding purposes. Both teams are No. 2 seeds right now according to the latest bracket projections and are fighting for a spot in Charlotte. The winner grabs a hold of that position with just one game until Selection Sunday.

Player of the Game

Theo Pinson. There’s not much more to say about this one. Pinson recorded his fifth double-double of the season and his second-straight in the ACC Tournament.

The senior got it done both offensively and defensively, helping the Tar Heels get past Miami on Thursday. Pinson is becoming the X-Factor for the Tar Heels down the stretch here and could help carry them through March.

Notable Stat

5-for-29. That’s the combined made field goals and attempts by Joel Berry and Luke Maye in this game. If UNC wants to go far in March, they need both of them to play better.

What’s Next?

The Tar Heels will take on Duke in the ACC Semifinals on Friday night. This is third time these two teams will meet this season, splitting the previous two.  The game will tipoff at 9 p.m. ET.