The Heels put forth an incredible effort but fall just short of the ACC Championship for a third straight season.
Simply put, Miami's Shane Larkin was too good. UNC had no answer for him. Maybe a pre-ACL injury Dexter Strickland could have kept Larkin out of the lane but no one could. And once he broke down the defense it was easy pickings. Larkin found Trey McKinney-Jones multiple times and he cashed in on three after three that kept Miami close. Many of Miami's supporting cast hurt UNC with shots, most of them coming off the havoc Larking wreaked. With six minutes left in the game UNC led 67-64. Miami close the game on a 23-10 run to claim their first ACC Championship in school history. UNC's best chance late came with a possession while down 74-71. Miami forced a shot clock violation and that was basically it.
While no one is into moral victories, there was some great takeaways from this game. P.J. Hairston was absolutely on fire hitting six threes and scoring 28 points. Hairston's six treys tied a UNC record for threes in an ACC Tournament game. Marcus Paige may have played his best game of the season, especially given the Hurricanes' defensive prowess. Paige scored 17 points and had five assists against only one turnover. His improvement this season has been phenomenal when you consider he has become more efficient with driving the basketball and hitting his own shot in the lane. Strickland dished out eight assists, had one turnover and probably more importantly took zero jumpers after he missed his first one. McAdoo had a quiet 12 points taking advantage of the match-up and really had a decent weekend overall.
Reggie Bullock shooting poorly going 3-14 was a contributing factor to the loss as was Miami controlling the boards 36-28. The latter is the weakness of the smaller lineup and UNC simply didn't turn Miami over enough or keep pace on the offensive end to compensate. UNC's defense, which had some solid moments just wasn't enough to stop Larkin. Late in the second half it felt very much like the game in Chapel Hill. There was an uneasiness that UNC would not be able to stop Miami from scoring and needed to score every time down. In the end, that's what happened with Miami scoring and UNC unable to maintain contact. On the day the Heels shot 45% from the floor, hit 13-29 from three and posted an offensive efficiency of 121.5 against a solid defense. Stopping Miami was the issue and it just didn't happen enough.
Despite the loss, no one should be hanging their heads. This is a strange season where UNC is better than many teams but incapable of snagging the upset over teams a tier above them. Now comes the wait for the NCAA Tournament selection. If UNC plays like it did today and this weekend, they are capable of beating a lot of teams. If they can do it consistently over the next week or more, who knows what happens.