In a game filled with sensational shot-making on both sides, UNC freshman point guard Coby White outdid Miami sophomore guard Chris Lykes just enough to push the Heels (19-4, 9-1 ACC) to a thrilling 88-85 overtime win over the Hurricanes (10-13, 2-9) yesterday afternoon in the Smith Center.
White tied his career high with 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, including a sparkling 7-of-10 mark from beyond the arc, to go along with six assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block. You could maybe tell why he is the highest scorer in the history of North Carolina high school basketball.
Like the rest of his teammates, White got off to a shaky start with three turnovers within the first six minutes. But the dynamo didn’t cough it up the rest of the way, and he scored 25 points after halftime, including 17 in the last seven minutes of regulation and overtime.
In a back-and-forth battle like this, probably the most forgotten play will be the three White drilled with 41.0 seconds left in regulation to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 75-74. Coming right off a potentially devastating three-pointer by Miami’s Zach Johnson, White thought about it for a second, then pulled up and connected on a deep three from the right wing. Sure, the Heels still had time to work it around for a two or three-point shot, but can you really argue with his approach? Boom, anyone’s ballgame again.
That was White’s seventh consecutive made field goal and sixth-straight long ball, by the way, and was part of a 9-of-10 second-half masterpiece. He also assisted Luke Maye’s three on a nice pick-and-pop play with 10.2 seconds left in regulation that knotted the score at 77.
The game started to feel an awful lot like the senior night nightmare from last season. After Joel Berry drilled an off-balance 3 to tie the score with 4.1 seconds to go despite a late deficit, Ja’Quan Newton sank a running 40-foot buzzer beater to spoil Berry’s and Theo Pinson’s last home game in baby blue 91-88. This time, however, the Heels not only had the tying three, but also an overtime-forcing stop, with White guarding Lykes’ missed long jumper that rocked the Dean Dome.
Then, in the extra session, White sealed the deal with smart and aggressive defense in an intentional foul situation with Carolina clinging to a three-point lead in the final seconds. Instead of telegraphing his intentions and lazily trying to apply a foul, White pounced on Lykes twice by actually going after the steal (this same strategy applies when the team wanting to foul is trailing).
The first time, White bumped Lykes and was whistled for a foul (the Heels had one to give). Fine, that’s what he wanted to do anyway. The second time, Carolina probably wouldn’t have minded fouling again and putting the Canes on the free-throw line, but White took care of business by just stealing the damn ball. In doing so he bookended the victory in poetic fashion, as his other theft led to a fast-break slam for his and the game’s first score.
Two of White’s five misses from the floor happened to come in OT, but without him the Heels wouldn’t have been anywhere close to the luxury of an extra five minutes to steal a win. What an impressive performance from the freshman – the kind UNC fans dream to see plenty of the rest of this season, and maybe even next.