Monday, February 16, 2009


No. 3 NORTH CAROLINA 69, MIAMI 65 – Miami’s Jack McClinton and UNC’s Ty Lawson had a chest thumping contest down in South Florida last night. McClinton pounded his chest after every made trey as if to say "not in my house," and Lawson pounded his to loosen up the congestion.

The S.S. Lawson (sick and listing a bit early on) sailed into stormy waters and rescued North Carolina from an intense tropical storm driven by offensive machine Harold McClinton. McClinton was running at Category 4 levels posting 35 points, the most the Tar Heels (23-2, 9-2 ACC) have yielded to an ACC player this season.

It was McClinton’s third straight game scoring at least 30, making him the first Miami player with such a streak since Eric Brown 21 seasons ago.

There were 15 NBA scouts in the crowd at United Bank Center in Miami, and McClinton put on a show for them.

But Ty Lawson, who was fighting an illness, was not to be outdone. In an ugly game of “run and gun,” the UNC point guard scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, including the game-sealing 3-pointer with 10.6 seconds left. Clutch.

Neither team was at full-strength. The Hurricanes were without Dwayne Collins who had injured an ankle the day before, and Carolina’s Wayne Ellington was nursing a minor elbow injury as well.

But, this game was a case of how a good team finds a way to win.

The opening act was a running shoot-out with everything but the good shooting. Both teams barely cracked the 30 percent mark posting a 29-26 halftime score. The two teams missed 69 shots between them in the first half. It wasn’t pretty. (Actually, it looked like a Big East game except for all the running up and down the court.)

The pace slowed and the shooting improved in the second half, with both teams shooting 38 plus percent and making 50 percent or more their three pointers (UNC 8-16, MIA 7-13).

Miami trailed 54-40 with 12:01 left, only to get within one on three separate occasions in the final 5 minutes. But each time Miami was a point away, Lawson nailed a 3-pointer. The UNC point guard shot 5-for-7 from beyond the arc in the second half. Wayne Ellington did his part, sore elbow and all, with 15 points and a career-best 10 rebounds.

Tyler Hansbrough did not score the first 31 minutes of the game, and was held to eight points and four rebounds. Danny Green scored just eight, Deon Thompson again shot poorly (4-11), but Carolina still found a way to win thanks to Lawson.

We're lucky," said head coach Roy Williams, whose team was held nearly 24 points below its season average. "That's the bottom line. We were lucky."

Lucky to win an ugly game, and “lucky” to have a point guard maturing and gaining confidence with every game. UNC fans will recall Raymond Felton evolving the same way in February of 2005.

The Hurricanes have not been so lucky. The Canes have lost six of their last eight games including their last two to Duke and UNC by a combined seven points. Miami is 0-5 in games decided by five or fewer points since Jan. 25, and their only win since that date was a 79-52 romp over Wake Forest on Feb. 4.

(AP Phots/Wilfredo Lee)

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