You can look at this game in one of two ways. One, UNC came out flat and gave up six three pointers from the Hurricanes, and fell behind 18-4. It took a herculean effort to even get to a tie game by halftime, and the Heels spent the rest of the game muddling along, and barely escaped with a win. In the second perspective, UNC hung on despite a torrent of threes from Miami – they'd finish with 13 – and had their best shooting night since the St. Francis game, winning down the stretch with a dead-eye performance from Harrison Barnes. Your view on this game probably depends on how you've felt about this team for awhile now, and both ways of thinking are equally correct.
We'll begin on the inside. Reggie Johnson gave Zeller and Henson fits, pulling down eight offensive boards, and keeping Zeller in foul trouble. He did all of this despite being winded by the pace of the game; this plus some great defense down the stretch from Zeller with four fouls was one of the keys to keeping Miami at bay. Still, neither of the UNC bigs had the offensive production we've come to expect from them this season, in part because of Johnson's defense.
On the perimeter, well, the trio of Malcolm Grant, Durand Scott, and Adrian Thomas rained down threes for Miami. They eventually slowed down, and their outside shooting regressed to 46% from behind the arc, at least, but they never stopped being a threat. In a way, the early hot streak benefited the Heels a bit; Miami's players often too ill-advised shots much earlier in the possession than they would have had they not felt like they were on a hot streak. The good news is UNC's own perimeter shooting kicked in, to an effect. The Heels would make 6 of 16 from three – they've only done better five times this season, against no names you'd recognize – and shot 48.3% from the field themselves. Reggie Bullock in particular hit a pair of threes when no one else could get anything going, and Larry Drew moved the ball better than I've seen all season. Dexter Strickland was also quietly racking up points; he'd finish with 12, all from inside the arc.
And finally, there's Harrison Barnes. He took the most shots of anyone for Carolina, and for most of the game he played the awkward style we've come to expect. He turned the ball over twice and misses seven shots; the important thing thing is the shots he made though. Barnes was 4-4 with under 2:15 to play in a period, and sunk both the tying three going into the half off a Bullock steal and the game winning three on a broken play with the shot clock expiring. While there was plenty not to like about his late game performance – the off-balance two to tie the game at 71 had no business going in, and the fact the Heels took a timeout to come up with the disaster that led to the game-winner is particularly heartening – he took control when it mattered and no one else did, and brought home the win. This isn't the great arrival of Harrison Barnes some folks are claiming it is, but it's a small start.
And the win is what's truly important here. UNC doesn't come away looking especially dominant over Miami, but in two weeks the Hurricanes will be 4-5 and things won't look as bad. However ugly it looks, Carolina is 4-1 in the ACC, and is quite capable of rolling into Durham at 7-1. This team is better on paper than what I've seen with my own eyes, but as long as they keep winning, eventually the visuals will catch up to the record.