CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – So much of Miami's success starts with Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott giving the Hurricanes an edge in the backcourt. Against No. 3 North Carolina, the duo never came close to knocking down enough shots to help the Hurricanes hang around.
The two combined for 17 points on 6-for-20 shooting in the 73-56 loss Tuesday night, losing a battle with North Carolina's often-overlooked backcourt. It was a significant reversal from last year, when both guards excelled against the Tar Heels in a pair of close losses.
Grant's troubles have been particularly troubling for Miami. He came in leading the team at nearly 14 points, but with five points on 2-for-8 shooting and failed to reach double figures in scoring for the fourth straight game. He did that just once in his first nine games.
"No comment," Grant said when asked about that streak. "Yeah, a tough stretch."
Scott finished with 12 points but shot just 4-for-12 from the field.
"I thought Carolina was very, very sharp, especially on the defensive end of the floor," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "They took our perimeter players right out of our offense."
For North Carolina, Tyler Zeller scored 16 points to lead the offense.
Dexter Strickland added 14 for the Tar Heels (15-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who closed a nine-game home stand with a perfect record to rebuild some momentum after early losses to UNLV and Kentucky. The Tar Heels led almost the entire night against the Hurricanes and blew the game open with a 17-0 run spanning halftime, which staked UNC to a 23-point lead.
That was the biggest deficit of the year for the Hurricanes (9-6, 0-2), who got no closer than 15 points from there. The lopsided loss followed a one-point loss at Virginia over the weekend in Larranaga's first ACC game on the Miami sideline.
Frontcourt star Harrison Barnes struggled to a season-low six points on 2-for-12 shooting, but the Tar Heels' often-overlooked backcourt picked up some of the slack.
Much of that started with point guard Kendall Marshall, who seemed more aggressive in looking for his shot and finished with 12 points. The pass-first sophomore has always been eager to set up shots for teammates and came in averaging fewer than five shots per game. But he finished 5-for-7 from the field to earn his first double-figure scoring game of the season to go with eight assists.
The five made baskets were a career high for Marshall, who was averaging about five points and entered the week tied for the national lead with 10.1 assists per game.
Strickland also looked active. He finished 7-for-9 from the field to reach his season-high scoring total, while he also had three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Tar Heels had all kinds of trouble with Miami last year. They swept the two games, but they needed a last-second 3-pointer from Barnes to win at Miami then had to rally from 19 down in the second half to win in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. That game ended with Marshall penetrating and finding Zeller for a layup that just was just barely out of his hand when the buzzer sounded.
There were no problems this time around. While North Carolina missed 14 of 16 3-pointers and didn't shoot particularly well, the Hurricanes had even bigger struggles.
Kenny Kadji scored 16 points to lead Miami, which shot just 42 percent and went 3-for-16 from 3-point range.
At halftime, the school honored Woody Durham, who spent four decades as the radio "Voice of the Tar Heels" before retiring after last season. Gov. Beverly Perdue attended the ceremony and presented Durham with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an award for lifelong service to the state of North Carolina.