Miami has been a 2nd half team all year. Whether it’s the result of the aggressive conditioning program, experience, the development of a predatory instinct, or a combination of a variety of factors, the ‘Canes seem to wear their opponents down. Once again, this trend continued and the 'Canes turned up the pressure as the game wore on. Did Coach know something at halftime? If you looked at his face he was kinda smiling. It wasn't the fake smile of a boxer who's trying to convince the crowd the last haymaker didn't hurt; it was the wry smile of a home run hitter who just fouled off a meatball.
Julian Gamble (14pts, 6reb, 3blk, 1stl) kept Miami in it the first half. Gamble continued his strong play and was a nightmare for UNC defenders, using an assortment of hooks, tips, and powerful dunks to rack up points. Gamble is playing the best basketball of his 'Canes career and has been a revelation for the team.
The 'Canes were down 32-30 at the half at one of the most difficult places to play in the country. But Miami wasn't phased in the 2nd frame. Kenny Kadji (18pts, 9reb, 3ast, 4blk) caught fire. While his scoring numbers were impressive, Kadji's best work of the night might have been his series of nasty blocks that seemed to deflate UNC. Kadji has also stepped it up on the glass, snagging a team high 9 rebounds.
Durand Scott (11pts, 6reb, 5ast, 3stl) did a little bit of everything and nailed a late three that just about sealed it for Miami. Shane Larkin (11pts, 3reb, 1ast, 2stl) struggled to find his offensive rhythm early, but seemed more determined to attack the rim in the 2nd half.
The biggest story of the game wasn't any individual performance. In just over a year, Coach Larranaga - with the hard work of his players - has transformed Miami's identity from a defensively-challenged team into a defensive force to be reckoned with. Seriously. Miami has been downright stingy in giving up points in the majority of their games - against some excellent offensive teams.
Tonight the 'Canes held UNC to their lowest point total of the season: 59. We haven't seen defense like this in Coral Gables since the days of Leonard Hamilton. Technically, that was downtown Miami, but you get the drift.
Game Metaphor Footage: Miami = #51; UNC = The other team
Player of the Game: Julian Gamble played big. As previously mentioned, Gamble kept Miami in the game the first half. On our game thread, other 'Canes fans expressed the same sentiment. Gamble's buckets seemed to come at perfect times. He was aggressive and finished strong at the rim.
Offensive Player of the Game: Kenny Kadji. K2 had 18 big points and was a complete mismatch for UNC bigs.
Defensive Player of the Game: I've been doing this a lot this year and it's a damn good thing. Team award, although a wink and a nod goes to Kadji for his ridiculous tandem blocks to snuff out any hopes UNC had of mounting a comeback. Holding any UNC team to 59 points is a big deal and is the sign of a team effort - particularly in the 2nd half.
Points of Interest: Rion Brown had 3 BIG 3-pointers. Trey McKinney-Jones struggled most of the game, but, like Scott, nailed a huge three that helped build what proved to be an insurmountable 'Canes lead. Aside from the PSTD games in Paradise Lost and the early season Cain-lock, Coach Larranaga has proven to be the master of the 2nd half adjustment. Reggie Bullock was smiling a lot the 1st half, but the smile and all mention of Reggie Bullock disappeared in the 2nd half.
Next Game: Miami hosts Alex Len and the Maryland Terrapins on Sunday night at 8pm. This is a BIG game. Maryland is one of the better teams in the conference and Len is a sure-fire NBA lottery pick. Pack the BUC and give the 'Canes the 6th man advantage!
|T. McKinney Jones||26||1-5||1-4||2-2||0||1||1||5||1||0||1||5|
|Percentages||.472||.346||.692||Team Rebounds: 6|
|Percentages||.400||.400||.625||Team Rebounds: 3|
- Technical Fouls: None
- Arena: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
- Attendance: 20,516
- Officials: Les Jones, Michael Stephens, Joe Lindsay