Noon games haven’t been very kind to the Tar Heels this season, but they were able to coast to victory over Miami with good defense and a great game by Isaiah Hicks. UNC ran into some foul trouble in the first half with Theo Pinson picking up his third with several minutes left. Roy Williams was able to throw some unconventional lineups at Miami that helped weather the storm.
Despite closing out the half with a seven-point Miami run due to all kinds of sloppiness, UNC came out strong to start the second half with a 10-3 run. They never really looked back from there. Miami kept them from running away with it for a stretch before the Heels stepped on the gas and pulled away for good.
Four players finished in double figures for the Heels. Hicks led the way with 19 points. Kennedy Meeks, Joel Berry II, and Justin Jackson joined him with 10, 11, and 12 points, respectively. Theo Pinson finished just behind them with nine points, including a three-pointer he made on an attempted lob that happened to fall in the basket.
It can’t be overstated how much better Carolina is when Hicks can stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. He showed that today, following up his strong performance against Duke to close the regular season. While Jackson didn’t have as strong of an offensive day as we’re used to seeing, Hicks was there to pick up the slack.
Luke Maye came off the bench to play some important minutes and made two three-pointers for his six points. While it isn’t the normal part of his game, he’s shown that he can drain them if teams leave him open outside the arc. Tony Bradley also turned in some strong bench minutes, as did Nate Britt with his ever-present strong defense.
Miami is a very deserving NCAA Tournament team, so holding them to 53 points should be commended. Bruce Brown was, like he was in Coral Gables, very tough on the Heels. He scored 21 points to keep Miami as close as they were. While still not ideal, it was an improvement over the game UNC lost to Miami on the road in the regular season.
North Carolina now awaits the winner of the Louisville/Duke game for their opponent in the semifinal tomorrow evening at 7:00 pm ET.