CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami men’s basketball team turned in one of the most impressive performances in Watsco Center history Tuesday night, rolling to a thorough 85-57 drubbing of North Carolina.
Miami (14-4, 6-1 ACC) outscored the Tar Heels by 27 points in the first half and led by as many 33 on the night, en route to the decisive 28-point victory, North Carolina’s largest loss in ACC play since Jan. 14, 2012. It also marked the Tar Heels’ first conference loss by 25-plus since a 26-point setback, 87-61, at Miami on Feb. 9, 2013.
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Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong tied a season high with a game-best 25 points for the Hurricanes, while sixth-year redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg added a career-high 21 and redshirt-senior guard Kameron McGusty had 20. It marked the first time since Jan. 7, 2006, Miami had three 20-point scorers in a regulation affair.
“We had a whole week to prepare for them and part of the preparation was rest,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said after his seventh win over North Carolina during his tenure at The U. “We really got a chance to sharpen our saws and rejuvenate our energy level. It showed right from the very beginning. Carolina played on Saturday and then had a long trip to Miami on Monday. We took advantage of a situation where the guys really executed at both ends.”
The Hurricanes used an early 14-0 run, sparked by back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, in a span of just 3:05 to grab a 16-5 lead after just 5:50 of action. Miami forced five North Carolina (12-5, 4-2 ACC) turnovers in a stretch of 2:47.
Soon thereafter, the Tar Heels missed nine consecutive shots and Miami used a 10-0 run—making it a 28-8 extended surge—to go in front by 19 points, 30-11, with 9:02 left in the first half. Another 7-0 burst upped the edge as high as 21, 37-16, with 5:42 on the clock. The Hurricanes eventually closed the frame on a 10-0 run to take a 27-point lead, 49-22, into the locker room.
Miami, which started 12-of-19 from the floor, shot 18-of-31 overall (58.1 percent) in the opening 20 minutes, including 8-of-14 (57.1 percent) beyond the arc. At the other end, North Carolina opened 3-of-18 and finished the session at 7-of-31 (22.6 percent), including 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) from deep.
Waardenburg (17 points), Wong (15) and McGusty (12) combined for 44 first-half points on 16-of-24 shooting (66.7 percent), including an 8-of-10 clip (80.0 percent) from deep.
The Hurricanes upped their cushion to a then-game-high 32, 62-30, on a four-point play by Wong with 14:02 remaining. They eventually extended it to 33 points, 84-51, on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Wooga Poplar with 1:57 play. It marked the co-third-largest deficit of the season for the Tar Heels, trailing only 34- and 35-point margins on Dec. 18, 2021, versus RV/No. 21 Kentucky.
North Carolina never cut the deficit any lower than 22 during the entire second half, as Miami rolled to the 28-point triumph and held the Tar Heels to a season-low point total, 12 fewer than their mark against the Wildcats.
Wong’s 25 points, the second-most by a North Carolina foe all year, came on 9-of-18 shooting from the field, including a 5-of-9 clip from deep to set a career high in made 3-pointers. He added a season-high eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
In addition to his career high in points, Waardenburg set top marks in made field goals and made 3-pointers, as he finished 7-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-6 beyond the arc. The Auckland, New Zealand, native scored 16 points in the first 16 minutes and made his first five 3-pointers of the night.
McGusty, meanwhile, notched his 20 points on a 7-of-15 clip from the field and a 5-of-7 mark at the line. He added a team-high 10 rebounds to record his fifth double-double of the year, as well as registered a season- and game-best four steals.
“When Charlie [Moore] is distributing the ball the way he does and those guys are hitting shots the way they did, [we have a great offense],” Larrañaga said. “In Sam’s case, every time we play against a team that really tries to help on our guards, Sam has the opportunity to try to get himself open from 3-point range. Tonight, not only was he open, he was really ready to shoot it. He went 4-for-4 [on 3-pointers] in the first half alone, which I’m sure made a huge difference in the Carolina scouting report because Sam doesn’t normally shoot that much and certainly not from three all the time.”
Junior forward/center Armando Bacot, the two-time reigning ACC Player of the Week, finished with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Tar Heels, but Miami forced him into four turnovers and limited him to three first-half points.
No other Tar Heel scored in double figures—a first for the team this season—as RJ Davis placed second with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. Fellow sophomore guard Caleb Love shot just 2-of-12 in a five-point performance and graduate student forward Brady Manek went 2-of-8 in a seven-point outing.
Miami finished the night with a 46.0 percent mark (29-of-63) from the field, including a 46.4 percent ledger (13-of-28) from 3-point range. The Tar Heels shot just 33.8 percent (22-of-65) overall and 20.0 percent (6-of-30) beyond the arc. Their field goal percentage was their worst of the season and the 22 made field goals matched a season low, set Nov. 21, 2021, against No. 18/17 Tennessee.
The Hurricanes posted a dominant 30-5 edge in points off turnovers, as they logged 10 steals and forced 14 giveaways. At the other end, Miami committed just four turnovers, their lowest mark of the season and tied for its third-fewest ever in ACC play. North Carolina, which got outscored 13-4 in fast-break points, had just one steal on the night.
Up next for the Hurricanes is a home matchup with Florida State, slated for Saturday at 2 p.m., live on ESPN or ESPN2 from the Watsco Center.
Miami Hurricanes Athletics / Alex Schwartz contributed to this recap