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UNC vs. Miami Basketball: A History

The Tar Heels and Hurricanes have had some classic battles since The U joined the ACC in 2004

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

At noon on Saturday, Roy Williams and the Tar Heels head to Coral Gables to take on Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes. While no one would mistake UNC-Miami for a classic rivalry (in either Basketball OR Football), Tar Heels vs. ‘Canes has provided some exciting showdowns ever since Miami joined the ACC.

Here are some of the most memorable games between North Carolina and Miami:

February 22, 2005 - UNC Welcomes Miami to the ACC

Hurricanes v Tar Heels Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Several months earlier, Conor Barth and UNC Football gave the Hurricanes a taste of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a shattering upset defeat in Chapel Hill. In February, Roy Williams’ squad did much the same. Though, this was no upset. The Canes had started the ACC season surprisingly well, winning three of their first five conference games. The #6 Tar Heels, meanwhile, were smashing through the ACC en route to their first outright regular season title since 1993.

Miami got a terrific performance from Guillermo Diaz, who finished with 30 points, but UNC dominated. All five starters finished in double figures, led by Sean May, who had 17 and 15. The Tar Heels took it, 87-67.

February 15, 2009 - Lawson Comes Up Big

North Carolina v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As was the case throughout the 2008-09 National Championship Season, Ty Lawson played his best when his team needed him the most. #3 Tar Heels, fresh off their 4-for-4 win in Cameron, built a 14 point lead in the second half, but Miami staged a furious rally in front of the home crowd in Coral Gables. In the final minute, the Hurricanes had cut the UNC lead to one, before Lawson drilled a game-sealing three with 10 seconds left. UNC survived, 69-65.

Once again, the Canes lost despite a star turn from one of their players. Senior Jack McClinton dropped 35 points in a losing effort. Lawson, meanwhile, scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half.

January 26, 2011 - The Barnes Shot

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In late January of 2011 the Tar Heels were experiencing a rocky ride. No, I mean literally: Their flight to Miami experienced extreme turbulence during a thunderstorm midflight. On top of that, the Heels were still finding their identity on the court. No one more so than Harrison Barnes. UNC’s most hyped recruit of the Roy Williams Era had showed promise early in the season but was still maddeningly inconsistent. The game in Coral Gables changed all that.

The Tar Heels fell behind early, staring at a 14-point deficit, but clawed back to tie the game in the closing minutes. With the shot clock winding down and under ten seconds left in the game, Kendall Marshall was caught up in the air but managed to find Barnes on the wing. Barnes drilled the game-winning three with 6.6 seconds left. It was the first of many clutch shots he would have that year. Carolina took it 74-71.

March 11, 2011 - The Comeback

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Two months later, the Tar Heels broke Miami’s hearts again. A brilliant finish to the regular season saw the Tar Heels become surprising ACC Regular Season Champions. Then they came to Greensboro for the ACC Tournament and for 30 minutes looked absolutely nothing like it. Miami went zone and for 34 of the game UNC had no idea how to attack it, falling behind by 19 points. Turnovers and missed shots galore. The Heels couldn’t buy a basket...

...until suddenly they could. UNC exploded down the stretch, nailing three after three and then finishing the job inside. The Heels tied the game in the final minute and had the ball with the clock winding down. Miami fouled repeatedly to minimize the time UNC had to run clock, but it didn’t matter: Marshall dropped a perfect wraparound pass to Tyler Zeller, who laid it in at the buzzer. UNC won it, 61-59.

March 17, 2013 - Miami Wins the ACC Championship

ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Jim Larranaga’s Miami Hurricanes ran roughshod over the ACC in 2013. They won their first 13 conference games and wrapped up the Regular Season title with ease, finishing 15-3. Two of those wins were decisive drubbings of the Tar Heels, both in Chapel Hill and (particularly) Coral Gables. The ACC Tournament provided UNC with a chance for revenge.

The game was a tremendously entertaining one, remembered mostly for the preposterous shootout between PJ Hairston and Miami’s Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney-Jones. Hairston (28 points) nailed 6 three pointers, several from ridiculous range to pace the Heels, who led by 6 midway through the second half. But it was not to be: Larkin (28 points) and McKinney-Jones (20) combined for 10 threes for the Canes, who seized control down the stretch and won it 87-77 to complete a three game sweep of the Heels.

February 20th, 2016 - The Tar Heels Take Out Their Frustration

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The #5 Tar Heels took on the #11 Hurricanes in Chapel Hill in the most high-profile game the two teams have played thus far. Both teams were 10-3 in the ACC and looking to seize pole position in the hunt for the Regular Season crown. That wasn’t on Carolina’s mind: What WAS on their mind was the fact that they had lost a heartbreaker at home to Duke three days earlier in a game they ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY should have won.

The Hurricanes wound up being the therapy bop bag for the Tar Heels. Carolina smashed the Canes, 96-71, in a game that was even more decisive than the score suggests. Brice Johnson led the way with 16 points and 15 boards, while Justin Jackson added 15 points and 8 assists. The Tar Heels would win the ACC by one game, with this matchup ultimately being the titler decider.

February 27th, 2018 - Ja’Quan Newton Ruins Senior Night

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

As Joel Berry said in his Senior Speech afterwards: “For some reason, people love to hit game-winners on us like that...” One of the all-time gut punch regular season losses in Tar Heel history, Senior Night 2018 still stings for Carolina nation.

For most of the game, the Tar Heels couldn’t seem to do anything right. Poor execution and shoddy defense saw the Hurricanes build a 16 point lead in the second half. But spurred on by the senior duo of Berry and Theo Pinson (doubtless driven by a desperation to win their final home game) the Heels fought back. Berry (31 points) hit a preposterous game-tying three with 4.1 seconds left, sending the Dean Dome into hysterics.

You know what happened next...

...(Newton travelled). Miami stormed the court of a suddenly silent Dean Dome, as Berry and Pinson were forced to bid farewell while feeling the sting of a crushing defeat. Fortunately for the two of them, the Heels avenged their loss in the ACC Quarterfinals. Said Pinson, “We got our Senior Night back.”