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The Tar Heels blow past the Miami Hurricanes, 85-76

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Post play, Nassir Little, and Cameron Johnson catching fire made for a fun afternoon in Coral Gables

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Miami-Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the Tar Heels travel to Miami, it’s very easy to expect the Hurricanes to be a pain in their side. They delivered by putting up a strong fight for most of the game, but at the end of the day, Carolina slammed the door on the U and came away with a 85-76 victory.

This game was a game that reminded us all that Roy Williams’ brand of UNC basketball is still very much alive to some extent, even though assuredly it was prevalent today because of Miami’s lack of size. Luke Maye, and Nassir Little were able to get a lot of good looks in the paint and made it a long day for Ebuka Izundu. This was particularly noticeable on the boards — UNC won the rebounding battle 38-23, and won 13 offensive rebounds to Miami’s 6.

As good as Maye and Little were in the paint, the real star of the game was Cameron Johnson. Johnson finished the game with 22 points and 7 rebounds, and shot at a 71.4% clip from three. His back-to-back three-pointers in the final six minutes the game were huge after Miami went on a 10-2 run to make it a one-point game. Kenny Williams decided to show up to the party as well, following up Johnson’s shots with a couple of threes of his own. The door was slammed shut in the final minute when Luke Maye nailed a baseline jumper to increase the lead to 82-71.

Going back to Nassir Little, this is the second game in a row where he had the performance that the Tar Heels desperately need from him going forward. He was a dangerous threat attacking the rim, and even took a pass from Coby White in for a thunderous dunk in the second half. One thing worth noting about this game as well as the game against Notre Dame is that the matchups have heavily favored Little to have a good performance, but we could see him turning a corner into becoming the big threat off of the bench that is going to be needed of the Heels want to make any noise come March.

While there were a lot of upsides to the performance today, there were also some not-so-good things that happened as well. The Heels were struggling with turnovers at the start of the game, finishing the first half with nine. Things were a bit more under control in the second half, but there were enough careless turnovers to undoubtedly infuriate Roy Williams. Luke Maye specifically still seems to struggle controlling the ball at times, as was evident with some sloppy dribbling and missing a couple of passes.

The other issue was on defense, but it was one that was weird to say the least. The Heels had their share of very good moments on defense, but it didn’t stop Miami from doing more than they should’ve been able to do. The Hurricanes finished the game shooting 49% from the floor, and also made 42% of their threes. Chris Lykes was a big-time player for them, finishing the game shooting 50% from the floor and from three. Anthony Lawrence II also had a big game, only missing two of his field goal attempts and draining three of his three-point attempts.

The final important note from this game is that UNC’s seniors had 52 points, 20 rebounds, and 13 assists total. This is huge going forward, as the level of senior play has been questionable for a lot of the season with the exception of Cameron Johnson. Luke Maye and Kenny Williams finding ways to get going is a great sign, and hopefully that momentum will go a long way at giving them confidence against the rougher parts of the ACC schedule.

All and all, this was a good road win for Carolina and now they get to go home and get ready to take on Virginia Tech. It should be a tough challenge for the Heels, as the Hokies would love nothing more than to take them down in the Dean Dome. Hopefully the Heels will show up to play and generate some good momentum going into the long break before they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.