Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Johnson Leads North Carolina to 73-64 Win; Miami’s Tournament Hopes Are Almost Dead


The Miami Hurricanes have been looking for their second signature win to flaunt to the NCAA selection committee on Selection Sunday, and they had another chance on Saturday when they hosted the 15th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. Unfortunately, like most of the season, Miami came close but couldn’t quite close it out as UNC took control down the stretch, beating Miami, 73-64. The loss likely takes the Canes out of the tournament for the second straight season, barring a deep run in the ACC tournament.

Before the game, Angel Rodriguez, who had one of his better games in a long time against Florida State, had his wrist heavily wrapped and his status for the game was uncertain. After Miami fell behind 10-4, Coach Larranaga summoned Rodriguez to try and provide a spark to a sleeping Hurricanes team without their starting point guard.

Rodriguez’s stint on the court was a short one as it was clear that he could only dribble with one hand. That left Manu Lecomte in charge of the point guard duties for the remainder of the game.

Both UNC and Miami came out of the gates a little sloppy, combining for 19 turnovers in the first half, but both teams played hard in front of a capacity crowd at BankUnited Center on Saturday.

For most of the game, both teams were evenly matched but the Tar Heels took control of the glass, and it ultimately was too much for the Hurricanes to overcome. North Carolina took the rebounding edge, 42-28.

With Rodriguez pretty much out of the game for Miami, the Hurricanes needed someone to step up for the team, and they likeliest candidate was Sheldon McClellan. McClellan had 9 points in the first half, and was held to only two points in the second half, largely due to foul trouble as he picked up his fourth personal with 15:56 left to play in regulation.

North Carolina led for 37 minutes on Saturday, but Miami fans erupted when Ivan Cruz Uceda dropped in 6 of his career-high 11 points with 11:20 left in the game, giving them their first lead of the game since the early going where they led the Tar Heels 4-2.

Ja’Quan Newton got a big steal and dunk down the stretch for Miami to cut the UNC lead 55-52. But after the big play by the freshman, the Tar Heels took control of the game on both ends, and rallied off eight straight points to give them a 65-54 lead, and that was just too much for the Canes.

Brice Johnson was huge for North Carolina, recording a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 11-for-15 shooting. Marcus Paige also hit timely shots for the Tar Heels, chipping in with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting.

Tonye Jekiri, who has been on a double-double tear the last few weeks, had an off game only grabbing 7 rebounds and adding 6 points for Miami. Davon Reed also had an off game for the Hurricanes, as he went 1-for-8 from the floor, with his lone basket being a nasty double crossover on Justin Jackson that might be on Sportscenter.

The Hurricanes are now 18-11 on the year, and go back to .500 in the ACC at 8-8. Miami had a chance for another resume builder against UNC, and move up on top of Carolina at the number 5 spot in the ACC standings. Unfortunately, Miami had to do it without their top two scorers for the large part on Saturday, and it might cost them a chance at the big dance.

Coach Larranaga said after the game that the team will probably have to win their next four games (2 in the regular season, 2 in the tournament) to have a chance at convincing the committee that they deserve to be in the field of 68.

“I believe in this team” said Lecomte after the game “I believe we can win the [ACC] tournament”