CHAPEL HILL— Miami coach Jim Larrañaga went into halftime Monday night knowing his 15th-ranked Hurricanes couldn’t keep letting UNC attack off the dribble and get to the rim.
So the Hurricanes turned an opponent that struggles from 3-point range into a jump-shooting team.
Jordan Miller and Nijel Pack combined for 47 points to lead the offense, while the Hurrricanes’ second-half shutdown of driving lanes helped Miami beat UNC 80-72 to stay at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title chase.
Miller had 24 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Hurricanes (21-5, 12-4), who led 35-34 at halftime but shot 52% after the break to take control and build a 14-point lead. Yet it was more about Miami’s defense, which closed off the avenues that had helped the Tar Heels (16-10, 8-7) score 26 points in the paint before the break.
The Hurricanes hedged even harder on screens after halftime to drive UNC ballhandlers farther from the basket and take that away. UNC managed just 14 points in the paint after halftime.
“They were making layups on us,” Larrañaga said. “We had to take that away. The guys did a great job of doing that. Again, when you fall behind, oftentimes that leads to teams looking for 3s.”
And UNC wasn’t up to the challenge of making them. The Tar Heels came in ranked 14th of 15 league teams in 3-point percentage (31.4%) and made just 5 of 31 attempts from behind the arc.
“In the second half, we tried to do (attack) and they just did a better job of closing down that paint,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “The only way that you can open that up is to make some perimeter jump shots, and we just weren’t able to do it.”
RJ Davis scored 23 points while Caleb Love had 20 for the Tar Heels, who trailed by 11 in the final 2½ minutes before making a frantic comeback. UNC got within 73-69 on Love’s 3-pointer with 34.9 seconds left, but the Hurricanes made 11 of 14 free throws in the last 63 seconds to stay in control.
Miami hosts Wake Forest on Saturday, while UNC visits No. 23 NC State on Sunday.
Elon 70, Hampton 68
ELON — Freshman Max Mackinnon scored 18 points and made two free throws with four seconds remaining to rally Elon to a 70-68 victory over Hampton on Monday night.
Mackinnon also handed out five assists for the Phoenix (7-20, 5-9 Colonial Athletic Association). Mackinnon hit from beyond the arc to give Elon a 68-66 lead with 36 seconds left. Jerald Gillens-Butler came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers and score 14. Sean Halloran pitched in with 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Torrence Watson grabbed 10 boards and scored five.
Jordan Nesbitt and Marquis Godwin scored 15 apiece to pace the Pirates (6-21, 3-11), who have lost four straight. Nesbitt added five rebounds and four assists. Russell Dean had 12 points and five assists and reserve Daniel Banister added 11 points and five rebounds. Freshman Kyrese Mullen totaled nine points and 10 rebounds.
North Carolina Central 85, Coppin State 52
DURHAM — Kris Monroe finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds to power North Carolina Central to an 85-52 romp over Coppin State on Monday night.
Marque Maultsby added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (12-11, 5-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference). Brendan Medley-Bacon added 17 points.
Sam Sessoms had 18 points and two steals to pace the Eagles (6-20, 1-8), who have lost eight straight. Mike Hood added eight points and Luka Tekavcic totaled seven points and six
NC Central visits Delaware State on Saturday.
Monmouth 85, North Carolina A&T 71
WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — Klemen Vuga finished with 29 points and nine rebounds to power Monmouth to an 85-71 victory over North Carolina A&T on Monday night.
Jack Collins sank five 3-pointers and scored 22 points for the Hawks (6-21, 5-9 Colonial Athletic Association). Myles Foster scored 15.
The Aggies (12-16, 7-8) were led by Kam Woods with 24 points. Duncan Powell added 17 points and eight rebounds. Demetric Horton finished with 14 points, four assists and two steals.
Monmouth took the lead with 4:41 remaining in the first half and never relinquished it.
N.C. A&T visits Towson on Saturday.