CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (The Sports Xchange) — There was no time to sulk for No. 5 North Carolina, so the Tar Heels put a recent disappointment behind them.
Then they took out any frustrations on No. 11 Miami, trouncing the Hurricanes 96-71 on Saturday at the Smith Center to break a first-place tie in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I wanted to make sure there’s no “Woe is me,'” North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
Forward Brice Johnson scored 16 points and forward Justin Jackson added 15 to help the Tar Heels bounce back from a devastating loss to rival Duke.
“We’re just learning from our mistakes,” forward Isaiah Hicks said. “Lost by one (to Duke) so that means the little things come and factor in.”
The Tar Heels (22-5, 11-3 in the ACC), who completed a stretch of three home games in seven days, shot 54.9 from the field against Miami.
Hicks chipped in 12 points, while guards Joel Berry, Nate Britt and Theo Pinson all finished with 10 points for North Carolina, which led by 38 points at one stage.
“The ball really went in for us and our depth really wore them down,” Williams said.
Guard Angel Rodriguez and forward Ivan Cruz Uceda each had 12 points, while guard Anthony Lawrence Jr. tallied 11, and guard Sheldon McClellan scored 10 points for Miami (21-5, 10-4), which had not lost since an 85-69 setback three weeks earlier at North Carolina State.
North Carolina, coming off the Duke game three days earlier, built a 12-point lead late in the first half and took a 42-33 edge into the break.
“That’s behind us now,” Williams said of the Duke game. “The focus would be on Miami. … Defensively, I thought we were more involved, everybody.”
Miami coach Jim Larranaga said the Hurricanes usually have executed game plans well, but this might have been out of whack by midway through the first half.
Larranaga said the Tar Heels looked like they were on a mission.
“Carolina’s offense and defense is a machine,” Larranaga said. “You can almost predict how (they’re) going to play.”
The Tar Heels began the second half on a 13-1 run. So for a team that was undone by defensive mistakes in the loss to Duke, there was a much bigger cushion in this game.
The margin ballooned to 66-39 with more than 12 minutes to play, totally taking the edge off what was a showdown for first place in the conference.
“Everybody just came out there and was doing whatever they can do,” Hicks said.
North Carolina added perimeter shooting, which has been miserable at times this season, as an asset. The Tar Heels hit 9-of-14 long-range shots at one point, with five players accounting for at least one 3-pointer.
Even with six players in double-figure scoring for the Tar Heels, guard Marcus Paige wasn’t one of them. He had seven points.
The game began a brutal stretch for the Hurricanes, who will be involved in another game with potential first-place implications Monday night.
“Fly back and get ready for a Virginia team,” Larranaga said. “It’s a very, very challenging schedule. The preparation is so darn important. We’ve got to be sure we’re well-rested.”
Miami’s string of five consecutive ACC victories, its longest streak in that category in three years, came to an end.
The Hurricanes had some ragged possessions that resulted in less-than-ideal shot selection, and thus low shooting numbers. They made only 12 of their first 36 shots from the field.
The main first-half concern for North Carolina was for reserve guard Kenny Williams, who hit his head on the court when he took a tumble while getting out of position on defense. He returned to watch from the bench in the second half.
NOTES: This was the only regular-season meeting of the season between the teams. … Miami G Ja’Quan Newton was back after missing Wednesday night’s game with Virginia Tech because of illness, but he left Saturday’s game in the second half with an apparent left leg injury. … North Carolina’s five losses have come by a total of 17 points. … The outcome gave North Carolina coach Roy Williams 354 victories at the school, tying former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins for fourth-most with an ACC program. … Miami is 4-4 against North Carolina with Jim Larranaga as coach. … This was the first of four consecutive games against ranked opponents for Miami, which is home Monday night against Virginia. … North Carolina plays three of its final four regular-season games on the road, beginning Wednesday night at North Carolina State.
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