Previewing Miami

Since North Carolina's double-digit win over Miami five weeks ago, the Hurricanes have proven to be a tough out, winning six of their last eight ACC contests. Wednesday's rematch at the BankUnited Center is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (21-4, 8-2) vs. Miami (15-8, 6-4)
Coral Gables, Fla. -- BankUnited Center
8 p.m. -- ESPN (Mark Jones, Len Elmore)

Quotables

"I think Carolina is so big and they can miss shots and that can still be good offense for them. Just like the other day, they can crash the offensive boards and turn a miss into a make in a split second. We are going to have to take care of the ball better. We turned it over more than we should have up at their place. So if we can reduce our turnovers and rebound a little bit better, hopefully that will make for a more competitive game." – Miami head coach Jim Larranaga

"He's done a great job. He continues to get better defensively. He is a very good pickpocket. He really knows how to anticipate passes and make steals and make defensive plays. But he's also very, very good at getting the ball to our big guys and to our other guards." – Larranaga on freshman point guard Shane Larkin

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Meeting: Miami enters Wednesday's contest with a 15-8 (6-4 ACC) record. Since losing to North Carolina on Jan. 10, the Hurricanes have won six of their last eight games, including a signature 78-74 overtime victory at Duke on Feb. 5. Jim Larranaga's squad had won three road games in a row before dropping its last game at Florida State (64-59) on Saturday.

The Value of Reggie: It's taken Winston-Salem, N.C. native Reggie Johnson some time to get back into game shape since returning to action in December from a torn meniscus in his right knee, but his impact on his teammates was immediate. In the 14 games since the 6-foot-10, 284-pound center's return, Miami has improved its field goal percentage from 39.9 to 46.3. Junior forward Kenny Kadji's averages have increased from 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game to 16.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per contest, while junior guard Durand Scott's shooting percentage have jumped up from 30.2 percent to 49.3 percent. As for Johnson getting back into shape, it appears as though he's essentially back to normal conditioning levels. The junior earned ACC Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 20 points on 56.7 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds in wins over Duke and Maryland.


Johnson
Speaking of Kadji: It would be unfair to give Johnson all of the credit for Kadji's dramatic improvement over the calendar change. The 6-foot-11, 251-pound junior ranks seventh in the ACC in league games in scoring (15.4), third in field goal percentage (55.4), sixth in blocked shots (1.8) and 13th in rebounding (6.3). Kadji is also knocking down 39.3 percent (11-of-28) of his 3-pointers in ACC play. A native of Douala, Cameroon, Kadji transferred to Miami from Florida following back surgery during the 2009-10 season.

Rookie Emerging: Larranaga was the first coach to offer Shane Larkin a scholarship back when he was in 10th grade, but the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin picked DePaul over George Mason. Larkin, however, changed his mind and contacted Miami's staff once Larranaga took over in Coral Gables. After some early growing pains, Larkin has now started the last six games and is currently tied for the ACC lead in steals with 39. He has posted at least three steals in seven games and notched six steals against UNC in January. More importantly, Miami is 8-2 when Larkin is in the starting lineup, including 5-1 over the last six games.

Bench Production Steady: Miami only goes eight deep, but those three reserves have provided serious offensive production during ACC play. DeQuan Jones (6.3 ppg), Rion Brown (4.7 ppg) and Trey McKinney Jones (4.6 ppg) have helped the Hurricanes bench to average 17.4 points per contest over the last five games.

Middle of the Road: Miami is currently tied with Virginia for fifth place in the ACC standings and its statistical rankings explain why. The Hurricanes rank between fourth and eighth in the league in 12 statistical categories, including scoring offense (71.5, 4th), scoring defense (66.8, 6th), scoring margin (plus-4.7, 7th), field goal percentage (43.8, 6th), field goal percentage defense (41.7, 6th) and assist-turnover margin (1.0, 6th).

Random Fact of the Day: According to Miami's game notes, the Hurricanes have held 648 of their last 649 opponents to less than 100 points. The one team to eclipse that 100-point barrier? North Carolina (105-64) on Jan. 31, 2007.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Miami, 73-56, on Jan. 10 at the Smith Center. Tyler Zeller (16 points, 10 rebounds) and John Henson (11 points, 14 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Tar Heels and Dexter Strickland tied his season-high with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. UNC outrebounded the Hurricanes, 45-29, and used a 17-0 run overlapping the halves to open up a 23 point lead.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with Miami, 17-2. The Hurricanes' lone victory in Coral Gables was a 64-61 overtime win on Jan. 4, 2003.

Projected Starters:
0 Shane Larkin (5-11, 160, Fr.) - 7.5 ppg, 2.6 apg
3 Malcolm Grant (6-1, 188, Sr.) - 12.1 ppg, 2.0 apg
1 Durand Scott (6-5, 202, Jr.) - 12.6 ppg, 3.4 apg, 5.0 rpg
35 Kenny Kadji (6-11, 251, So.) - 12.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg
42 Reggie Johnson (6-10, 284, Jr.) - 11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
5 DeQuan Jones (6-8, 221, Sr.) - 6.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg
15 Rion Brown (6-6, 194, So.) - 5.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg
4 Trey McKinney Jones (6-5, 216, Jr.) - 6.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg

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(Photos by US Presswire)


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