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Canes Hoops: Canes Lose Lykes, McGusty and the Game at North Carolina

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The bad news began right before the tip and continued all afternoon.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Mere minutes before the Miami Hurricanes were set to begin Saturday’s game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Dean Smith Center, fans received some bad news regarding two of UM’s most potent weapons before UM’s 94-71 Atlantic Coast Conference loss.

With Chris Lykes (groin) and Kameron McGusty (back spasms) out, Jim Larrañaga was forced to used a different lineup for the first time this season, with freshman Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly being inserted into the starting five.

The good news is that Miami’s hampered lineup was balanced offensively in Chapel Hill, with freshman Wong recording a career-high 13 points, and Rodney Miller scoring at least 10 for the third time in four games, with 13 points Saturday. Anthony Walker also logged a career-high 14 points.

The bad news? Offensive balance simply can not make up for the absence of two leading scorers, with Miami missing nearly 30 points of offense when Lykes and McGusty’s per game scoring average is taken into account. The Canes needed that production in a bad way.

Needing to preserve energy with just six scholarship players available, as well as trying to avoid foul trouble, the Canes (10-9, 2-6 ACC) went to a 2-3 zone on the defensive end of the floor.

On the flip side, that allowed the Heels to shoot 43% from 3-point range and out-rebound Miami 41-21.

UNC also held an advantage second chance points (17-3) and won the turnover battle 12-10.

Down by as much as much as 34 late in the second half, walk-ons Filippos Gkogkos and Willie Herenton registered their first minutes of the season for the Hurricanes.

Even while playing at less than 100% after suffering from neck pain due to a car accident, Brandon Robinson played a big part in the destruction of UM Saturday, scoring a career-high 29 points while shooting 11-16 from the field and 60% from beyond the arc. The senior guard was joined by teammates Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks in double-figures, with the duo scoring 19 and 14 points respectively. Bacot’s game-high 12 rebounds also earned the freshman a double-double.

Carolina took a 51-27 lead into the half, with Miller leading UM with eight points and Robinson taking 15 points into the home locker room for the Tar Heels. UNC shot 55% from the field and made six 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

The Tar Heels didn't let up in the second half, putting Miami into their largest deficit of the season before the Canes somewhat rallied to cut the final deficit to a comparatively mild 23 points.

UNC coach Roy Williams also passed former Tar Heel coach Dean Smith to move to third all-time in wins among Division 1 coaches, earning victory number 880.

With the loss, UM drops to last place in the ACC.

Miami will attempt to get healthy before returning at action at the Watsco Center on Tuesday against Virginia Tech. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ACC Network.