Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2013
CHAPEL HILL — Miami hopes its latest Tobacco Road conquest will turn some skeptics into believers. It sure created plenty more concern for North Carolina.
The Hurricanes claimed just their third victory over the Tar Heels on Thursday night, pulling away for a 68-59 win behind 18 points from Kenny Kadji.
“Hopefully, now people take us seriously,” Kadji said.
Julian Gamble had 14 points and Durand Scott and Shane Larkin each had 11 for Miami (11-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
A year ago, Kadji and several current Hurricanes went into Cameron Indoor Stadium and knocked off Duke. This time, they outmuscled the Blue Devils’ chief rival and led for most of the second half, shot 47 percent on 25-of-53 shooting and held the Tar Heels to one field goal during a critical seven-minute span late to claim their second straight league road win.
“Coach told us that when we were preparing for UNC, don’t be a finesse team against them,” Kadji said. “I wouldn’t say they’re not tough, but you know, we’re seniors. We’re strong. We worked all summer gaining muscle and things like that. We really wanted to show that we’re an older team and a more physical team.”
Miami won its third straight, claimed its first 2-0 start to ACC play since joining the conference in 2003-04 and beat North Carolina for the first time since 2006.
“I’m stressed. There’s no question about that,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “I’m not a guy to panic. I’m not a guy to give up or anything like that. I’m going to come in tomorrow and coach the crap out of them. . This is one of those no-sleep nights, but my God, I never sleep much anyway.”
James Michael McAdoo finished with 14 points and Reggie Bullock had 11 for North Carolina (10-5, 0-2), which lost its first two league games for the first time since 2008-09 and fell to 18-3 in the series.
“I feel like everybody’s mad. Everybody’s upset. Everybody’s stressed out, trying to figure out what we need to do for us to win games,” Bullock said. “Early in the season, we were playing teams like McNeese State, where these teams in the ACC are not those teams. So somehow we have to pull together and get tougher playing against these ACC teams because they’re all great teams.”
The only shot North Carolina hit in that critical stretch appeared to be a big one: P.J. Hairston’s 3-pointer with just under 5 minutes left pulled the Tar Heels to 56-55.
But Miami then reeled off eight quick points, with Gamble sticking back his own miss before Trey McKinney Jones and Scott hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips downcourt from the same spot in the left corner.
Scott’s 3 made it 64-55 with 3:05 to play.
“When we play a team that pressures us and is going to be trapping the ball-handler, we share the ball and spread them out,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “And if you get an open 3, you have the green light to shoot it. . If he’s feeling good and he sees that shot open for him, he knows that I want him to shoot it.”
And when North Carolina threatened to claw back in it in the final 90 seconds, Kadji blocked Bullock’s layup attempt and a dunk by J.P. Tokoto to essentially seal it.
“The blocked shots were huge,” Larranaga said.
Kadji finished with four blocks, reached double figures for the fifth straight game and finished one point shy of the season-high 19 he had last month against Arizona.
This one was tight until the final few minutes, with seven ties and 11 lead changes. Aside from a span of about a minute in the first half in which the Tar Heels held a six-point lead, neither team led by more than four points until Miami’s late surge.
Freshmen Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige had 10 points apiece for North Carolina, which shot just 33 percent (11 of 33) in the second half. Dexter Strickland could never seem to get in the flow, missing his only shot in 26 minutes of playing time.
McAdoo, who has scored at least 10 points in all but one game this season, and Bullock combined to take half of the Tar Heels’ 60 shots but were 2 of 16 in the final 20 minutes. McAdoo finished 5 of 14 while Bullock was 4 of 16.
“I had some great looks. They just didn’t fall for me,” Bullock said.
Both teams were missing key players with injuries. The Tar Heels were without redshirt junior Leslie McDonald, who was held out after tweaking his right knee — the same knee he injured in 2011.
Miami once again didn’t have big man Reggie Johnson, a Winston-Salem native who averages a double-double but missed his sixth straight game with a broken left thumb.