CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Jordan Miller had 24 points and 11 rebounds as No. 15 Miami took over after halftime then had to hold off a late rally to beat North Carolina 80-72 on Monday night.
Nijel Pack added 23 points for the Hurricanes (21-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who led by just one at halftime but shot 52% after the break while locking down on UNC’s drivers who had found success getting to the rim in the first 20 minutes. The combination helped Miami stretch out the lead to as many as 14 points, with Miller and Pack leading the way from either behind the arc or with Miller’s nifty moves inside.
The Tar Heels (16-10, 8-7) trailed by 11 in the final 2 1/2 minutes before making a frantic comeback, getting to within 73-69 on Caleb Love’s 3-pointer with 34.9 seconds left. But the Hurricanes remained in control, hitting 11 of 14 free throws in the last 63 seconds to secure the road win down the stretch.
R.J. Davis scored 23 points while Love had 20 for UNC, which shot 43.9%. But the Tar Heels continued their season-long struggles with their outside shooting, missing 26 of 31 3-pointers for the game.
That inability to make a long-distance shot became a larger issue after finding first-half success getting downhill around screens and attacking the rim off the dribble. But Miami hedged even harder on screens after halftime to drive UNC ballhandlers farther from the basket and take that away, while Armando Bacot (12 points) sat for a stretch with four fouls to leave a large hole in the middle of UNC’s attack.
Miami: The Hurricanes entered this game having won four straight, including a 32-point romp against Duke at home. That run had pushed Miami to within a game in the loss column of Pittsburgh and No. 7 Virginia for the league lead. Now they have a fifth road win in ACC play.
UNC: The Tar Heels have had a strange journey from preseason No. 1-ranked team with four starters back from last year’s unexpected ride to the NCAA title game to unranked and working to shore up their NCAA Tournament resume in mid-February. After a humbling loss at Wake Forest, the Tar Heels responded with a spirited effort in a blowout of Clemson on Saturday — only to squander this chance to help their postseason resume even more.
Miami: Hosting Wake Forest on Saturday.
UNC: At No. 23 North Carolina State on Sunday.