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January 10, 2012

Carolina calms Hurricanes

Carolina did not need a last-second comeback this time.

The third-ranked Tar Heels rolled across Miami 73-56 on Tuesday night at the Dean Dome.

A year ago, UNC required buzzer-beaters to defeat the Hurricanes in Coral Gables and at the ACC tournament in Greensboro.

This time Carolina did not need any heroics at the end. The Tar Heels trounced Miami for 40 minutes, finishing with a 73-56 victory to improve to 15-2.

Miami fell to 9-6 after receiving a thorough beating at the hands of Carolina. UNC held Miami to 41.8 percent shooting for the game.

The most important area Carolina conquered was the perimeter. Dexter Strickland, Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Harriston did an excellent job in defending Miami's backcourt.

The Hurricanes' guards just happen to be their strength. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant lead UM in scoring, but the two combined to go 6-of-20 for 17 points. The two got beat on the defense as well.

"Everybody noticed the games are going to be tougher, so we have to be more aggressive," said Strickland, who went 7-of-9 from the field, scoring 14 points to go with three assists, no turnovers and two steals.

"At this point it is mandatory for us to be aggressive. We go so hard in practice; we are focused on what we have to do to get the win. Everybody is determined to be focused and up their play by being more aggressive."

The strategy worked. UNC had 10 steals and forced 17 turnovers.

"I thought Carolina was very, very sharp, especially at the defensive end of the floor," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "They took our perimeter players right out of our offense, right from the first TV timeout on. We only had one field goal from our guards in the first half.

"They executed very well offensively, and we didn't really challenge them very hard at the rim like we expected to. Falling behind by 15 really set the tone. We never really had a chance."

Miami got to see Marshall and take a look at what all the hype has been about this season. Marshall had eight assists, an uncharacteristic four turnovers, but he did make two steals and went 5-of-7 from the field and scored 12 points.

"Kendall Marshall was very, very sharp," Larranaga said. "He was able to find the open man regularly, but he was aggressive going to the basket himself. He got several layups where you were hoping your guards could stay between him and the basket. We were not able to do that often enough."

Overall, the Tar Heels played as a unit and moved together on defense as well as they have at any point this season. They did struggle to make shots.

UNC shot 44.9 percent from the field, just 41.7 in the first half.

"At times we were really good defensively and the bottom line on the ugly part of the game is we just didn't make any shots," Williams said. "I said earlier that I thought we were going to be a big-time shooting team, and we showed that through part of the season. We didn't show it tonight.

"The last game I talked about our big guys had a great shooting percentage and this time it was Dexter and Kendall. I like that part of it, that different people can hurt you on different nights. All in all, it's a win."

Now the Tar Heels will go on the road again, when they travel to Tallahassee, Fla., or a 2 p.m. game on Saturday.

"I'm excited," [John] Henson said. "We haven't been on the road in a long time. That is one of the tough places to play. Florida State, they have good players. There is something about it. Harrison [Barnes] hit that shot last year. It is always a tough place to play."


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