UM basketball team falls just short of upsetting No. 10 UNC, loses seventh game in a row

The Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team lost its seventh game in a row Monday night, a 75-71 loss on the road against the 10th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. The Canes now have nine days to get healthy and prepare for the home finale March 6 against Boston College.

Miami was missing injured starters Nijel Pack and Wooga Poplar against the Tar Heels. North Carolina guard RJ Davis set a Dean E. Smith Center record with 42 points. And yet, UM rallied to within two points in the closing seconds.

It wasn’t enough.

“Well, that was a valiant effort on our part, but RJ Davis had the answer every time we made a run,” Larranaga said. “He is a fantastic player. Our guys fought very hard. We fell behind late in the game and still made a tremendous effort to come back and a very exciting ending.”

Down 73-71 with five seconds remaining, Bensley Joseph intentionally missed his second free throw, the plan being that the Hurricanes would get the offensive rebound and score to tie the game. Instead, UNC got the ball.

“I told Bensley Joseph to miss that last free throw,” Larranaga said. “I don’t know if that was the right decision or not looking back on it. Hopefully we could get an offensive rebound and score right there at our basket rather than him making the free throw and we’d still be behind by one with five seconds to go and trying to force a turnover, get a foul, and have to go the length of the court after the foul. So those decisions are always challenging.”

Joseph finished with a career-high 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. Norchad Omier had 22 points, but spent much of the game in foul trouble. Kyshawn George added 14 points and Matt Cleveland had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Miami, coming off a Final Four season, dropped to 15-14 and 6-12 in the ACC with two games remaining. The seven-game losing streak is the longest since 2007, before Larranaga was coach. The Hurricanes play at home March 6 against Boston College and end the season on the road at Florida State on March 9.

“The best part for us is we’ve got nine days before we play again, so if during those nine days we can recover from some of our injuries, we can focus on trying to be the team that we wanted to be from the start of the season,” Larranaga said. “Then maybe we can end the season on a positive note.”