Statement: Miami Hurricanes beat No. 9 North Carolina at home 77-62

Davon Reed celebrates with the student section after Miami's win over No. 9 North Carolina. (Getty Images)

Davon Reed celebrates with the student section after Miami’s win over No. 9 North Carolina. (Getty Images)

CORAL GABLES — The Hurricanes had been in this situation before.

In their last game against a ranked opponent, last Saturday at No. 18 Duke, Miami led by 11 at the halftime. They wound up losing by 12, as a more experienced team pushed them around down the stretch.

It was a lesson learned.

In front of a swollen Saturday crowd at the Watsco Center, the youthful Hurricanes turned a 17-point halftime lead on No. 9 Carolina into a 77-62 win. It was their most impressive victory of the season. It was more evidence that Miami (14-6, 4-4 ACC), when it comes to play, can run with anyone.

UM broke the seven-game winning streak of the Tar Heels (19-4, 7-2 ACC), who entered atop the conference, and earned a major piece of its NCAA tournament resume.

“We’re one of the best teams in the country,” junior point guard Ja’Quan Newton said, believing every word. “We’ve just got to get a couple more wins like this.”

The Hurricanes, who have won 23 of 24 at home but were 0-3 against ranked teams this year, went up by as many as 22 and held UNC to a season-low in points. As Miami kept its distance late, the home fans chanted “overrated.” As the game slipped away, UNC coach Roy Williams let his frustration get the better of him, picking up a stool and slamming it on the court.

“Not a lot to say,” Williams said afterward. “It was a big-time kick in our rear ends. … They were more aggressive in everything they did.”

The Hurricanes did this with one of its most aggressive players, Newton, sitting in foul trouble for much of the second half. That allowed freshman guard Bruce Brown to have the best game of his young career.

Brown, the 6-foot-5 former five-star recruit from Boston, went nearly 30 minutes without missing. He wound up with a full stat line, topped by 30 points, which was more than any Hurricane since 2014 and more than any UM freshman since its ACC debut in 2004.

Brown finished 8-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-6 threes, and 10-of-13 foul shots. He grabbed four rebounds, dished out five assists and was a pest defensively (two blocks, two steals). He jumped around with a packed student section afterward and was interviewed by CBS.

Williams called him “tremendous.” Larranaga gushed about his personality first. “Everything you want in a player, Bruce Brown delivers,” he said. Brown, for his part, was “just happy we won.”

Newton finished with 18 points, the last of which came on a two-handed breakaway slam in the final two minutes, and seven rebounds. Senior Davon Reed had 14 and seven boards.

With their guards — and Kamari Murphy (four points, nine rebounds) so active on the glass, Miami was able to outwork the nation’s top rebounding team. The Tar Heels grabbed 36 boards, one above their season-low, and were out-rebounded for the second time this year. Miami had 41 in total.

The start was bad. UNC’s 6-foot-10, 260-pound Kennedy Meeks was a bully down low. Lengthy wing Justin Jackson hit a three in Reed’s face, then rose up over Reed and kissed the glass. Larranaga called timeout with the Tar Heels up 11-2.

A zone defense wasn’t in the game plan — “We practice it once every two weeks,” Larranaga said — but something had to slow them down.

Bruce Brown drives toward the UNC basket. (Getty Images)

Bruce Brown drives toward the UNC basket. (Getty Images)

The switch worked. The visitors closed the half shooting 2-of-22 and didn’t make a field goal the last 8:36 of the first half.

And Miami’s shooting? After an 0-for-4 start, three-pointers by Anthony Lawrence, Reed and Brown, and a driving scoop by Newton made it 13-all.  Miami took the lead at 13:49 on another Newton layup, with contact. With Newton and Brown bothering UNC on defense and making acrobatic plays in transition, and center Ebuka Izundu, normally in foul trouble, contributing a pair of blocks, Miami earned an eight-point lead, and a standing ovation at the under-12 timeout.

“We knew we were going to make shots,” Brown said. “It just had to come.”

The Hurricanes held UNC to a season-low for points in a half (22). Conversely, Miami’s halftime lead (17) was its largest of the year.

Though Carolina had the rep of a team that takes misses and runs, Miami finished with an 11-0 lead in fast-break points — though Larranaga believed the Heels had a few early — and points off turnovers 14-8.

Murphy, Reed and Newton picked up their third fouls in the first three minutes of the second half. Newton sat after earning his fourth, and Larranaga stopped a 6-0 UNC run by calling timeout with 10:58 left.

But Miami closed with more outstanding defense, including a steal in the final minute by Brown, and earned several layups and trips to the line with outlet passes against a beaten UNC.

“We’ve played three, and only three, complete games since ACC play started,” Larranaga said, naming previous wins over North Carolina State, Notre Dame. Saturday was the other.

They’ve shown they have more in them.

Dewan Huell shouts during Miami's game against UNC. (Getty Images)

Dewan Huell shouts during Miami’s game against UNC. (Getty Images)

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