Both Miami and North Carolina entered their semifinal contests with large question marks looming overhead. Now, after both have answered those questions – one more easily than the other – the only remaining unknown is which will be cutting down the nets on Sunday.
Miami came into Greensboro this week with the leagues best conference record, and, because of that, the tournaments top seed.
When the Hurricanes met eighth-seeded Boston College on Friday in their quarterfinal matchup they barely resembled that team from South Beach that went 15-3 in conference play throughout the regular season.
Saturday, however, they left no doubt.
Durand Scott found the bottom of the net 19 seconds into play for the games first basket. From that point on, neither Scott nor his Hurricanes slowed down.
Scott, in addition to playing his trademark lock-down defense for which he earned the title as the conference’s best defender, exploded on the offensive end for a career-best 32 points. He seemed to be able to score at will, both from the perimeter and the inside.
When he fouled out of the game with 1:53 remaining, it made little difference as he had already done plenty to ensure his team’s victory.
“I picked my opportunities and tried to make advantage of (them),” Scott said. “My teammates found me and got me open. Once I got a couple of baskets I got confident in myself, especially from the 3-point line. I think I missed my first two but after that I told myself, ‘When I’m open, shoot.”
That confidence was felt throughout the Miami roster, most notably by fellow guard Shane Larkin. Larkin, a member of the first-team All-ACC, added 23 points of his own along with four assists and three steals.
“I think what makes our (backcourt) so special is they love that challenge of proving themselves every single night,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “They’re both so competitive. We do drills back home, if we’re not keeping score, they’re bored.”
That competitive drive will play into Miami’s favor on Sunday, on a stage where they most certainly will be keeping track of the score. They will face North Carolina, the winner of Saturday’s second semi-final in the ACC Championship.
Unlike the Hurricanes, whose lead hovered around 10 for the majority of the second half, the Tar Heels escaped with a victory in the most exciting game of the tournament, thus far, by just three.
When Logan Aronhalt’s attempt to tie the game from well outside the 3-point arc hit nothing but air and Reggie Bullock came down with the last of his nine rebounds with just five seconds left, North Carolina’s attempt at fending off the relentless Terrapins was completed.
Not surprisingly, the same Maryland team that came out swinging against the Duke Blue Devils a day before, had little in the tank for the start of the Saturday’s matchup against UNC.
“Needless to say, I’m really proud of my group. We were dead at the start of the game, we just had no energy whatsoever,” said Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon.
“It was an emotional win last night beating the No. 2 team in the country, in North Carolina. We all tried to sleep last night, but none of us slept very much to be honest with you.”