Theo Pinson scored a career-high 25 points and had 11 rebounds, lifting No. 12 North Carolina while its other stars were struggling, and the Tar Heels beat Miami 82-65 on Thursday night to set up a second straight Atlantic Coast Conference semifinal meeting with Duke in Brooklyn.
The fifth-seeded Tar Heels (24-9) face the fifth-ranked and second-seeded Blue Devils for the third time this season on Friday night for a spot in the championship game – just as the rivals did last year in the tournament’s debut at Barclays Center. It will be the 22nd time Duke and North Carolina play in the ACC Tournament. Duke leads 13-8.
Ja’Quan Newton, who beat North Carolina nine days ago in Chapel Hill with a 40-foot buzzer beater, scored 17 points for third-seeded Miami (22-9).
Pinson scored 10 points in 3 1/2 minutes of the second half, including a corner 3 to make it 69-63 with 4:25 left. Forty-two seconds later, Pinson dribbled through the Miami press and threw down a slam that had the UNC fans chanting ”Taarrr! Heels!”
The defending national champions needed the senior, because the Heels’ top two scorers were off. Luke Maye, UNC’s leading scorer, went 1 for 15 from the field and point guard Joel Berry II shot 4 for 14, playing through a twisted ankle.
North Carolina (24-9) advances to Friday’s 9 p.m. semifinal game against No. 2 seed and nationally fifth-ranked Duke (26-6). The teams split during the regular season, with each side winning at home (UNC 82-78 on Feb. 8 and Duke 74-64 last Saturday).
UNC improves to 99-45 all-time in the New York Life ACC Tournament and 45-13 in the quarterfinal round. Miami slipped to 14-13 in ACC Tournament play and to 3-8 in the quarterfinals. The No. 6 seed is now 22-39 all-times versus the No. 3 seed in ACC Tournament quarterfinals.
With a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds, UNC senior Theo Pinson registered his sixth double-double in the last 14 games (Pinson had one double-double in the first 104 games of his career) … Pinson scored in double figures for the eighth consecutive game and for the 16th time this season … He went 9-for-12 from the floor, including a pair of key 3-pointers in the game’s closing minutes.
UNC’s Cameron Johnson finished with 13 points … Johnson scored in double figures for the 17th time in the 22 games in which he has played this season. Kenny Williams and Joel Berry II each finished with 11 points each to round out UNC’s double-figure scoring … UNC improved to 20-3 in the 23 games this season in which Williams has scored in double-digits.
Luke Maye pulled down 13 rebounds to lead UNC to a 52-41 advantage on the boards. UNC is now 38-24 all-time in games played in New York City, including a 4-1 mark at Barclays Center. Ja’Quan Newton led a balanced Miami attack with 17 points … Newton, who has averaged 16 points in two games vs. UNC this year, scored in double-figures for the 14th time this season.
With 12 points, the Hurricanes’ Anthony Lawrence II hit double-digits for the 13th time this season. UNC led 32-31 at the half despite missing its first 13 shots from the floor and spotting the Hurricanes a 14-0 lead in the first 7:09 of the game … A three-point play by reserve guard Seventh Woods – who missed 17 games during the regular season due to injury and had not scored since the Tar Heels’ win over Michigan on Nov. 29 – put UNC on the board … UNC outscored Miami 32-17 in the final 12:51 of the opening half.
Friday night’s UNC-Duke game will be rematch of the 2017 semifinals at Barclays, in which the fifth-seeded Blue Devils defeated the top-seeded Tar Heels 93-83 en route to the championship. Duke leads 13-8 in ACC Tournament meetings with UNC and has won the past six meetings … The Tar Heels’ last victory came in the 1998 title game in Greensboro.