Now that we’ve had almost a week to absorb the blow that ended the season, it is time for the annual reflection on what made this season good.
It was February 27th, and Miami was still in the hunt for a double-bye in the ACC Tournament, assuming this team won out and got help.
UNC had won five straight and was looking to at least finish in second behind league leader UVA.
North Carolina was the favorite in the eyes of the punditry, and Miami was simply to be a backdrop on the Tar Heel’s senior night.
And the beginning of the game proved the experts right, as the Heels opened up to an 18-10 lead midway through the first half.
But a 12-3 Canes run gave them their first lead with eight to play in the half. The run was spearheaded by Ebuka Izundu, who scored all twelve of the Miami points.
The Hurricane momentum continued through halftime and Miami found themselves up eight.
After halftime, a quick 6-0 run fueled by UNC turnovers extended Miami’s lead to 14. The lead would soon peak at 52-37 before the Heels extended run would begin.
From roughly the 17 to 10 minute marks in the second half, UNC made five three-pointers, which cut the lead to just five. This was the first of two Carolina scoring waves to trim their deficit.
The second one began with just under five minutes to play after the Canes lead had been re-extended to ten points. But Kenny Williams and Joel Berry knocked down back-to-back threes and suddenly the lead was just four. A Berry free throw made it a one-possession game with 3:14 left
After Dewan Huell knocked down a pair of free throws, Berry hit another three and the lead was down to a hair-splitting two points as the Dean Dome’s tsunami of crowd noise threatened to steal the game late.
Luke Maye hit one-of-two from the line before Anthony Lawrence answered with two from the charity stripe and the lead was back at three after a Berry layup and Ja’Quan Newton jump shot with 24 seconds left.
The free throw fiesta continued until UNC inbounded the ball down three with nine seconds to play.
Berry’s three appeared to force overtime— and for the time being— breaking Cane's hearts.
But Ja’Quan Newton’s 30-foot buzzer-beater gave the Canes one of their biggest wins in program history, sending Chapel Hill into shocked silence and Miami into hysteria.
The Canes win over Virginia Tech on the final day, followed by UNC’s loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor that night gave the Canes the #3 seed in the ACC Tournament and the elusive double-bye, but a Tuesday night in the research triangle is what may have truly propelled the Hurricanes to the top tier of the standings, as one of the most unforgettable moments in the history of the program unfolded right before twenty-thousand shocked eyeballs.