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Miami blows out North Carolina for 11th straight win

The SportsXchange

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Shane Larkin called it fun.

The BankUnited Center full house of 7,972 mostly University of Miami fans hardly would disagree.

Though he had plenty of help, Larkin pretty much led the way as the Hurricanes devastated North Carolina 87-61 Saturday afternoon en route to their 11th consecutive victory to remain unbeaten in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Larkin had a game-high 18 points, canning five of his eight attempts from 3-point range, and handed out a career-high nine assists as the Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0) shredded the Carolina defense with 54.4 percent shooting while holding the Tar Heels (16-7, 6-4) to under 39 percent.

One of the assists even brought Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who had asked for tickets to the sold-out arena earlier in the week, to their feet.

Just past the midpoint of the second half, with the issue long decided in his team's favor, Larkin was out on a fast break and lobbed a pass off the backboard for a trailing Kenny Kadji to slam home a dunk for a 70-46 lead.

"I would have done if they weren't there," Larkin said, referring to the presence of James and Wade. "It was just one of those moments where we were having fun out there."

Said Kadji: "I was kind of surprised he did it."

Coach Jim Larranaga said he didn't think his players were trying to show up an obviously struggling Carolina team that was having troubles at both ends of the court.

"I don't think it was showboating or anything like that," Larranaga said. "I think Shane could have laid it in and made the simple play, but when a teammate says to you, 'Hey, backboard, backboard,' it's just like the pass he made when he went up for a 3-pointer and threw it inside to Kenny and he dunked.

"It's another way to show that you're connected to your teammate."

Connected and clicking.

In addition to Larkin's scoring, Kadji and Durand Scott scored 17 each and Rion Brown added 11 off the bench. Julian Gamble blocked four shots, tying his career high in the category. Scott also had five assists.

The victory gave the Hurricanes their first season sweep of the Tar Heels since they joined the ACC for the 2004-05 season. The Hurricanes won 61-52 in Chapel Hill on Jan. 10.

That one was a struggle with the Hurricanes trailing at the half and going on a 13-3 run to close out the game.

This time the Hurricanes scored the first nine points of the game, and the Heels were never closer than seven points the rest of the way. After the Heels closed to within 22-15 with 6:19 left in the first half, Miami responded with a 22-12 run to lead by 17 at intermission.

And the Hurricanes didn't let up after that.

Their biggest lead was 28 points, 85-57, with 1:16 left in the game, and the final 26-point margin was Carolina's worst defeat of the season, eclipsing the 24-point loss at Indiana in late November.

"We didn't have any answers for them," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

North Carolina had three players in double figures, led by Reggie Bullock's 14 points. Bullock made five of his eight attempts from the floor, but the rest of the team made just 20 of 57 (35.1 percent).

"They shoot 55 percent and we shoot 38," Williams said, rounding off the numbers. "That's how you get your tail whipped."

NOTES: The 27 points North Carolina had at halftime marked the third time in the last five games and the fifth time this season the Tar Heels have failed to break the 30-point mark in the first 20 minutes. The low output for the Tar Heels in the first half was 18 in an 82-71 loss to Butler on Nov. 20. ... On the other hand, the 44 points Miami scored were a season high for the first half. The previous high was 42 in a victory over Duke. ... The loss to the Hurricanes was the first for the Tar Heels in Coral Gables under Williams, who was 5-0 at BankUnited Center. ... Larkin saw his streak of games with at least one steal end at 20 when he failed to come up with one against the Tar Heels. He did draw a charging foul, however, to force one of Carolina's 11 turnovers.
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