Miami wins at North Carolina, 81-70

Miami showed incredible poise down the stretch in thumping No. 20 North Carolina 81-70 in front of a sold out Dean Dome in Chapel Hill. It was the first win ever by Miami at North Carolina.

It's the type of win the University of Miami has been looking for since it entered the ACC last year. It's the type of win that will not only build confidence in a team, but is a program builder as well. It's a win that can change the future as recruits across the nation watch ESPN2 and see Miami in action.

Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite and Anthony Harris all came up with huge plays in the game's final five minutes to spark Miami to a 20-5 run that gave them a 79-67 lead with under a minute to play. The trio combined for 63 points.

"Our guards all made plays down the stretch," UM coach Frank Haith said. "They all hit shots and played with great poise and composure in a very hostile environment. It's a huge win for our program."

The preseason hype coming into this season is also starting to come around as the ‘Canes have now won two big time conference games against top tier ranked opponents, and done so both times in convincing fashion. Miami beat Maryland 84-70 last Saturday and with this win improved to 2-1 in the conference as they return to the BankUnited Center Wednesday to play Clemson at 7:30 p.m. riding a four-game winning streak.

But the reason the team is starting to finally transform from the team that couldn't win a game down the stretch in the early part of the season dropping heartbreakers to North Carolina State, Temple, Florida and Louisville, is because of the return of Harris that is making a world of difference.

"We are finally healthy," Haith said. "Our guards make us go. Harris hadn't hit a three all game and drilled one to give us the lead late. The Diaz hit that huge three to push the lead to nine."

What was a slow first half that saw both teams shoot rather poorly with Miami connecting at 37% and North Carolina (10-3, 2-1) connecting at 33% picked up in the second.

Hite, who was 1 for 6 in the first half, had a huge second half scoring 20 of his 24 points in the second half, but what was more impressive from Hite was his ability to get to the free throw line.

While Hite struggled with his shot hitting only 5 of 16 from the field, he made an impact in other ways. He got to the free throw line a career high 16 times and hit 12 of them. His aggressiveness early in the second half was a big key for the ‘Canes.

After the Tar Heels went on a 8-0 run to take a 39-32 lead, the ‘Canes responded right back with a 12-0 run of its own to take a 43-39 lead behind the play of Hite.

After a Harris lay up, Hite hit two free throws. He then drilled a three from the wing to tie the game at 39. He then hit another lay up for the lead and his steal led to a Diaz score to make it 43-39 with 15:38 to play.

"That's the kind of play we've been looking for from Rob," Haith said. "He got to the line 16 times. He attacked the basket. That makes his game so much more versatile and gives him a lot of weapons to attack opponents with."

Another three by Hite gave Miami a 47-41 lead, but the Tar Heels didn't go way.

In fact, they responded again with a 17-6 run to grab a 58-53 lead when Bobby Frasor drilled a three from the wing with 8:14 to play.

But Miami came right back. Diaz hit a three to cut the lead to two. He then came right back around a screen and swished another one to give Miami a 59-58 lead with 6:52 to play.

North Carolina again struck back taking a 62-59 lead following a couple of free throws by freshman phenom Tyler Hansbrough who scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Tar Heels.

But Miami took over from there.

Hite was fouled on a three-point attempt by Danny Green and hit all three of his freebies to tie the game at 62. Harris followed that with his loan three-pointer of the game that gave Miami a 65-62 lead, one it would never relinquish. Harris finished with 17 points and six assists.

After a couple of free throws by Hite and one by Gary Hamilton who helped the ‘Canes front line dominate the glass with 20 offensive rebounds, Diaz, who finished with 24 points, drilled a three that will go down as one of the biggest shots in ‘Canes history when he swished one from the top of the key with two seconds on the shot clock to give Miami a 71-62 lead with 1:37 to play and knock the Tar Heels out.

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat is the Basketball Staff Writer for CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at rudy@canestime.com

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