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Canes Hoops: Canes Fall at Home to UNC in Second Half

The Canes kept it close, but couldn't stop UNC from pulling away down the stretch.

Tony Capobianco

The Miami Hurricanes have players who can lead a team in dogfights with top-15 teams, and give championship-caliber performances on a consistent basis.

UM simply doesn't have enough of those players.

Down to just seven scholarship players throughout the continued absence of Dewan Hernandez due to the NCAA eligibility investigation, the Canes roll with an extremely thin roster.

With this lack of depth, the margin for error is thin and exploitable. Miami found that out the hard way against the 13th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels in a 85-67 loss.

Chris Lykes continues to prove that he belongs among the Atlantic Coast Confrence’s and nation’s elite as he pitched a team-high 20-point game on Saturday.

Lykes’ 18 points-per-game average in 2018-19 rank eighth in the ACC despite his diminutive 5’7’’ stature.

Three other Canes also reached the double-figure plateau. Ebuka Izundu—limited in the first half—had 13 total points to supplement Zach Johnson’s 17 points and Anthony Lawrence’s 18. Lawrence had 11 of his points less than six points into the contest, but was limited for most of the rest of the game.

That, along with just eight bench points for UM, proved costly against the visitors.

“Everybody has to bring it, as we don’t have much [depth],” said Anthony Lawrence after the game.

The Tar Heels used a balanced offensive attack to navigate their way through the Miami defense, mixing up looks between a traditional man-to-man, 2-3 and 3-2 zones, and even a box-and-one.

Cameron Johnson had a game-high 22 points to go along with 7 rebounds. UNC flexed their numbers muscles with an entire starting lineup’s worth of players in double-figures. Center Luke Maye had a near double-double with 14 points and nine points, while Coby White also came close to the versiltilly stat with 15 points and 8 assists. Kenny Williams also added 16 points and Nassir Little supplemented his teammate’s effort with 12 points.

The crowd was a mixed between orange and green and Carolina blue. UM fans remained in the majority at the Watsco Center, but not without a vocal presence of a UNC contingent trying to turn the Coral Gables arena into the Dean Dome South.

An exciting first half sent both teams to the locker room tied at 37. UM shot 50 percent from beyond the ark in the first half, while UNC out rebounded Miami 22-12. No team led by more than five at any given moment before halftime.

Unfortunately, UM could not sustain this effort, as UNC’s pace slowly put the game out of reach for Miami.

The Hurricanes wouldn’t go away, however, as three times under six minutes in the game the home team cut the deficit to just one position, igniting the crowd hoping to kickstart a run.

However, the Canes couldn't overcome the rebounding battle, which they lost 38-23. Asked how his team could fight though a shortcoming like this, Jim Larrañaga responded: “impossible. Our job isn't to outbound them, we just have have to keep it close. We just have Ebuka [Izundu], the rest of our guys are perimeter players.”

North Carolina also shot the ball much better in the second half, outshooting the three-point centric Canes 45 to 43 percent from beyond the arc, including a stretch with four consecutive three-point shoots.

“We struggled offensively, and then Cam [Johnson] made two three’s [in a two minute stretch, part of the run of threes for UNC]. He hadn’t made a three in two games, so he was overdue,” said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.

Williams thought his guys answered the bell in the second half. “I thought we were tougher mentally in the second half,” said Williams. “Toughness isn't just fighting somebody, it’s also hitting a three right in their face when the crowd is getting into it.”

A high number of made shots and rebounds by UNC put the Canes behind the eight-ball in the second half.

“I don’t think North Carolina missed a shot in the second half. If they did, they got the offensive rebound,” said Larrañaga jokingly. “I thought our guys did a good job, [but] we couldn’t stop the Tar Heels today.

With the loss, Miami falls to 1-4 in the ACC and 9-8 overall. They travel to Syracuse on Thursday to try and and begin their climb out of the bottom third of the conference. North Carolina will wait until tonight’s game between Virginia and Duke in Durham as a Duke win puts the Tar Heels in a the logjam at the very top of the league at 4-1 in confrence, with the first quarter of ACC play in the books.