Tar Heels eye Hurricanes, big prize
North Carolina coach Roy Williams experienced a feeling of helplessness the last time he faced Miami.
He had that sinking feeling because the Hurricanes spanked the Tar Heels 87-61 in Coral Gables on Feb. 9.
“It seems so long ago,” Williams said. “But my memory is looking up at that clock and score and the way I felt during the game is we had no control over anything.”
That was before he switched to a smaller lineup by inserting P.J. Hairston into the starting five. The Tah Heels have won 8 of 10 since, the latest a 79-76 nailbiter against Maryland on Saturday to earn a rematch against the Hurricanes in the ACC championship game.
“We have to play a lot better than we did the last time against them,” Williams said. “The smaller lineup means we are a better basketball team. Are we a world-beater or the best thing that ever happened on the basketball court? No. We’ve got some deficiencies. But it was the best thing for this team and whether it presents any different problems for them, we’ll see.”
One of the drawbacks of the smaller lineup is trouble rebounding. The Tar Heels allowed Maryland a whopping 24 points off offensive rebounds on Saturday.
“But that makes us quicker so we are able to create turnovers and score in transition. So there is a tradeoff there,” Williams said after UNC beat Florida State in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
No. 1 seed Miami (26-6) earned its first spot in the championship game by outlasting Boston College on Friday before hammering State on Saturday.
UNC (24-9) is going for its 18th crown and first since 2008.
“We’ve come in with a lot of confidence in ourselves and our game plan and have executed each night,” Miami guard Shane Larkin said. “We’re a hungry team and want more and more. We’re not satisfied with the regular season. We want the ACC and eventually we’re going to make the national championship game. We’re hungry and are not going to settle for less.”