Coming into today’s game against Miami, it had all of the makings of a trap game. A noon start at home against one of the more inferior teams in the ACC set things up for things to go really, really bad in the Dean Smith Center. Not only did it almost happen, but it almost happened in picture perfect fashion that was reminiscent of when Miami ripped out the hearts of each and every Tar Heel last year. This year, however, things were different.
During the first half, things were as messy as they could possibly be. Both teams managed to shoot under 40% from the field, and under under 30% from three. The Heels started off the game making two of their first seven shots, with both of them coming off of steals and dunks by Luke Maye and Coby White. Looking back on it, these two plays really set up the tone for the rest of the game.
During the second half, Miami went on a 13-2 run mostly due to the performance of Chris Lykes. Miami did an amazing job of getting the Tar Heels that they wanted off of the switch on ball screens, and unfortunately the player Lykes picked on the most was Nassir Little. The Heels clawed their way back into the game mostly thanks to Coby White, who looked the most dominant that he’s ever looked in a Carolina blue uniform. White was unconscious from deep, and kept the Heels in the game in the final couple of minutes in regulation. The Hurricanes took the lead thanks to a jumper by Zach Johnson, but then....Luke Maye happened.
Luke Maye channeled his inner-Kentucky-Elite-Eight-clutch-jumper-greatness with 12 seconds left in regulation to tie the game 77-77. If you’ve ever been in the Dean Smith Center for a Carolina vs. Duke game, then you know exactly how loud it got after the shot went in and Chris Lykes failed to make the game-winning three. It was by far and away the loudest it has been in the Dean Smith Center all year, and that energy carried over into overtime for both the fans and the players.
Overtime opened up largely as a defensive performance that was worthy of competing with this year’s Super Bowl. Anthony Lawrence got things going for both teams when he made a layup two minutes in. Garrison Brooks answered right away with a dunk on the other end, and all of the sudden both teams were trading blows until the Heels pulled away thanks to Miami sending them to the line. Zach Johnson hit a big three for the Hurricanes to bring the game within one, but then they fouled Cameron Johnson who made both of his free throws. On Miami’s last possession White got the steal, and the game was over.
For anybody that still maintained the idea that this Carolina team was soft or didn’t know how to climb out of bad situations, that idea needs to be thrown away. Miami very much took this game over in the second half and had every intent of putting things away. Coby White essentially put the team on his back and did things that Carolina freshmen have rarely ever done. He finished the game with 33 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 turnovers. He shot 11-16 from the field, and only missed three of his 10 shots from deep.
Despite a poor defensive performance and getting killed on the boards, Carolina is now 9-1 in the ACC, which is the best record in the first 10 conference games that the Heels have had under Roy Williams. Virginia will be in town Monday, and it has suddenly become the most important game so far this season, as it could dictate whether or not the Heels can stand alone in first place in the conference.