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Top-seeded Tar Heels breeze past Hurricanes 78-53 in ACC Tournament

March 9, 2017 GMT

FINAL. Miami: 53, North Carolina: 78.

Isaiah Hicks scored 19 points for North Carolina as the top-seeded Tar Heels beat Miami 78-53 to advance to Friday’s first semifinal. Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Kennedy Meeks also scored in double digits for UNC in the win.

3:39, 2H. Miami: 47, North Carolina: 71.

7:18, 2H. Miami: 46, North Carolina: 62.

Theo Pinson’s accidental three-pointer... which was supposed to be a pass for an alley-oop... pushed UNC’s lead to largest margin of the day, a 16-point lead, against Miami.

10:07, 2H. Miami: 43, North Carolina: 57.

15:28, 2H. Miami: 36, North Carolina: 48.

Isaiah Hicks dunked on back-to-back possessions to help Carolina grow it’s 10-point lead to 12 points.

17:09, 2H. Miami: 34, North Carolina: 44.

Five straight points by Justin Jackson, who had just two points in the first half, pushed UNC’s lead back to double digits and Miami asked for its first timeout of the half.

END 1H. Miami: 29, North Carolina: 34.

Isaiah Hicks leads UNC with 12 points as the Tar Heels hold a 34-29 lead at halftime. Miami went more than six minutes without scoring on 0-for-7 FG shooting as the ACC Tournament’s top seed grew its lead to 12 points, then the Canes finished the half on a 9-2 run.

3:57, 1H. Miami: 18, North Carolina: 27.

The Tar Heels hold a game-high nine-point lead at the final media timeout of the first half.

7:49, 1H. Miami: 18, North Carolina: 21.

Miami answered a 15-3 Tar Heel run with four straight points before the third media timeout to pull back within three points, despite UNC jumping to a seven-point lead.

11:26, 1H. Miami: 14, North Carolina: 14.

North Carolina scored six unanswered points to retake the lead before Miami tied the game.

15:54, 1H. Miami: 9, North Carolina: 6.

Isaiah Hicks has all six of North Carolina’s points at the first timeout and Miami has a three-point lead. Both teams are shooting exactly 50 percent FG and are perfect from the charity stripe in the competitive game.

PREGAME

With only nine eligible scholarship players on its roster, this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Miami.

But the best recruiting class in school history, led by Bruce Brown, helped the Hurricanes to a surprising 21-10 mark and a spot in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, where they face No. 6 and top-seeded North Carolina (26-6) on Thursday (12 p.m., WRAL-TV).

Miami, the ninth seed, knocked out Syracuse 62-57 in Wednesday’s second round. The Hurricanes won the ACC Tournament in 2013, defeating North Carolina 87-77 in the title game.

“I think we’ve overachieved with so many young guys,” Larranaga admitted. “I think we’ve come a long way.”

Brown has been steady for Miami, averaging 11.8 points, good enough for third on the team. D.J. Vasiljevic, another of Larranaga’s prized recruits, was a difference-maker against Syracuse.

The combo guard dropped in 13 points, nailing two straight 3-pointers less than a minute apart midway through the second half to give Miami some separation at 46-41.

Larranaga said he realizes his young squad is up against ACC royalty. The Tar Heels won 49 combined ACC regular-season and tournament championships. This is the 26th time the Tar Heels are the top seed in the tournament.

“Well, we have a list of seven things we have to do against North Carolina, both defensively and offensively, and we’re going to review those seven things defensively and seven things offensively with our players tonight,” Larranaga revealed.

“There’s no practice. We’re not going anywhere and practicing this. So it’s more about mental preparation and relying on our skills that we’ve developed over a long period of time, both offensively and defensively.

“We have the utmost respect for Carolina. They won the regular season championship. A lot of people are picking them to win the National Championship. So we know we’re the underdog. But we like that we’ve moved on and we’re in the quarterfinals now.”

The Tar Heels have the ACC Player of the Year in Justin Jackson (18.3 points per game).

The junior forward from Texas led Carolina in scoring in 12 of the 18 ACC games and 17 times overall, scored 20 or more points 16 times, hit four of more 3-pointers 11 times and has the highest scoring average by a Tar Heel since Tyler Hansbrough in 2009.

“Justin has been really good from day one,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “To have the kind of success shooting the ball and making big plays in key situations like he did against Duke is a credit to him and the amount of work he put in to improve his game.

“We went through a very difficult ACC schedule and Justin gave our players a lot of confidence knowing that he would consistently be putting up 18-20 points, about five rebounds and some key assists each game.

He listened to our coaching staff last spring about how to improve as a player and was determined to get better and stronger, which through his hard work and sweat, he is now reaping the benefits.

“To come to Carolina as a home-schooled youngster and earn ACC Player of the Year honors in the best conference in the country in one of the ACC’s most competitive seasons ever is a tremendous achievement.”