Chris Lykes and the Miami Hurricanes did not care that North Carolina was at home, nor that it was one of the top teams in the country.
Regardless of how good the Tar Heels were — and they have been good recently — the Hurricanes were going to try to beat them. And they nearly did. The Hurricanes took a three-point lead after Miami senior guard Zach Johnson hit a baseline jumper with 21 seconds remaining.
But UNC coach Roy Williams called a timeout and drew up a play that found senior forward Luke Maye open for a 3-pointer. He knocked it down, sending the game to overtime. In overtime, the Tar Heels outplayed the Hurricanes and won 88-85 at the Dean Smith Center.
“We’re fortunate to say the least,” Williams said. “I questioned our kids’ toughness throughout the whole game, and was still doing it at the end, but I think they answered it pretty well down the stretch.”
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UNC freshman guard Coby White led the Tar Heels with 33 points, which tied a season-high, and six assists. He was 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line and 11 of 16 from the floor overall. Maye had 20 points, but none were more crucial than the 3 he hit to save the game.
No. 8 UNC (19-4, 9-1 ACC) has now won seven consecutive games since its 21-point loss to Louisville last month, and on Monday will face No. 3 Virginia (20-1, 8-1) at home, in what will arguably be its toughest game of the season. The Tar Heels will remain tied atop the ACC standings after Saturday.
During the first half of the game, the NCAA Selection Committee revealed that the Tar Heels would be a No. 2 seed had the NCAA tournament started today.
Still the Tar Heels had a game to play and it wasn’t easy.
The Tar Heels didn’t take their first lead until 10 minutes into the first half when Maye hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The Tar Heels led by as many as seven points in the first half, but the Hurricanes managed to cut the lead to one point by halftime. In the second half, Miami’s 5-7, 157-pound guard Lykes took over. He hit shot after shot, forcing the Tar Heels to answer. For a stretch it was White and Lykes going back and forth.
“The little rascal is something else,” Williams said of Lykes. “It’s hard to get the ball out of his hands. He makes shots, he takes you to the basket, he gets you in foul trouble.”
“We tried playing it regular, we tried switching, we tried doubling him, I don’t know that any of it worked.
Lykes scored 19 points in the second half and the overtime period.
But a steal and fastbreak layup by UNC senior guard Kenny Williams cut Miami’s lead to one point, and gave the Tar Heels life. After Miami took a one-point lead with less than three minutes remaining, Williams called a timeout and drew up a play that got White open for a 3-pointer in the corner. He made the shot to give the Tar Heels a 71-69 lead with about 2:30 remaining.
On the very next play, Lykes got a favorable one-on-one matchup with UNC freshman Nassir Little, and hit a step-back 3-pointer to take the lead 72-71.
UNC missed its next shot, and Miami senior guard Zach Johnson hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Hurricanes a four-point lead with a minute left. White hit a 3-pointer to make it a one point game, but Miami answered again.
But Maye got the final say with his 3-pointer that sent the game in overtime.
In overtime, Miami had one final shot to tie the game, but Kenny Williams came up with the game saving steal.
“I think it’s good to win games like this, granted we need to play a lot better,” Maye said. “But it shows some of our resiliency.”