North Carolina became just the second collegiate basketball program to eclipse the 2,000-win mark on Tuesday, while also moving Roy Williams’ record on Senior Night to a stunning 22-0.
With the help of three senior reserves in the starting lineup – Marc Campbell and walk-ons James Gallagher and Thomas Thornton – the Tar Heels (16-14, 5-10 ACC) exploded out to a 20-8 lead. But in what would be a recurring theme throughout the evening, the two squads went back and forth with a series of runs that kept the contest interesting until the final seconds of play.
North Carolina took a 36-26 lead into halftime and increased that margin to 44-26 three minutes into the second half, but Miami (18-11, 4-11 ACC) charged back and cut its deficit to 59-58 with 3:33 remaining, but the Hurricanes were unable to get any closer.
Will Graves led UNC with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point territory. Ginyard posted his first career double-double with 12 points and 12 points, and Thompson added 14 points and four rebounds.
Freshman guard Durand Scott scored a career-high 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting to pace the Hurricanes, while Malcolm Grant contributed 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds in a supporting role.
North Carolina connected on 40.4 percent of its field goal attempts (23-of-57) compared to Miami’s 34.8 percent (23-of-66), and the Tar Heels nearly doubled the Hurricanes in total rebounds, 51-27.
A video montage replaced the traditional senior speeches following UNC’s final regular season home game, complete with the odd inclusion of Green Day’s 1997 mainstream hit, “Good Riddance.”
INSIDE THE GAME
A Game of Runs
The Tar Heels have spent much of the 2009-10 season watching opponents blister them with a wide variety of runs, but on Tuesday, both parties got involved in a virtual track meet of decisive spurts.
North Carolina connected on eight of its first 13 field goal attempts in racing out to a 20-8 lead, but the Tar Heels would miss six of their next seven shots while coughing up seven turnovers during a 6-minute, 26-second frame that resulted in a 15-3 Miami run to knot the game at 23.
Rebounding then came into play as UNC scored seven points of its ensuing 13-0 spurt off the offensive glass. Two more points occurred after a Thompson steal and pass ahead to Ginyard for a rare transition basket.
That light blue-colored run extended to 21-3 soon after halftime, but Miami ended the run rampage with a 32-15 spurt that lasted 13-minutes and 25-seconds to cut its deficit to 59-58.
That Hurricanes’ rally highlighted the inconsistent play that has saturated the North Carolina program all season long.
“That was a tough stretch because the guys came in off the bench and they kind of weren’t ready,” John Henson said of Miami’s second-half run. “We needed for them to come in and push the lead a little bit more. So that kind of slowed our momentum down, but we ended up fighting back.”
Defensive Baby Steps
Roy Williams spent much of the preseason telling reporters about all of the things he didn’t know about his current squad, but one thing that he was certain about was his roster’s potential to be a solid defensive unit. And while it took much longer than expected for that proclamation to prove legitimate, the Tar Heels appear to have finally connected the defensive dots as this season draws to a close.
North Carolina held Miami to 34.8 percent shooting (23-of-66), including a 31.2 mark (10-of-32) in the opening half.
“Just intensity and people getting after it,” Henson replied when asked about the defensive success against Miami. “Coach has been preaching that all year and it’s a little late, but we’re finally getting it.”
The Tar Heels have held five of their last seven opponents to 41.1 percent shooting or lower, and three of those teams were unable to eclipse the 35.0 percent barrier.
In the current world of immediacy, last week is considered the distant past, let alone the last four or five years. But Tuesday’s victory only further added to the embarrassing heap of riches that North Carolina’s seniors must bear for the rest of their lives.
“It’s unbelievable,” Marc Campbell said. “I don’t think I could have picked a better time to be born so that I could go through these four years. Five hundred wins for Coach Williams, 600 wins, 2,000 [program] wins, a national championship, [playing with President] Obama – it’s just unbelievable the stuff that’s happened while I’ve been here. I’m blessed every day to be a part of it.”
You can’t blame Campbell for failing to mention the century celebration of excellence that took place several weeks ago. After all, the laundry lists of accomplishments that have taken place during this senior class’ tenure borders on ridiculous levels.
The only thing missing would have been a memorable run to the NCAA Tournament, but one senior is not willing to give up on that possibility quite yet.
“You definitely wish this year would have gone better to go along with those things, but maybe that special thing is ahead, you know?” said Thompson, who also tied Danny Green for the most games played in a Tar Heel career at 145.