Previewing Miami

The Tar Heels return home on Wednesday, looking to bounce back from a disappointing ACC-opening loss, to face Miami. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN2.

North Carolina (10-4, 0-1) vs. Miami (8-6, 0-2)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Smith Center
Wednesday, 9 p.m.
ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen, LaPhonso Ellis)


Season to Date: Miami enters Wednesday's contest with an 8-6 (0-2 ACC) record. Head coach Jim Larranaga's squad has secured just one noteworthy victory – a 60-57 decision over Arizona State – while losing to the likes of St. Francis Brooklyn (66-62 OT), George Washington (71-63) and Nebraska (60-49). Miami fell in its ACC opener on Dec. 8 to Virginia Tech in overtime, 61-60. The Hurricanes saved their best loss for last, dropping a 49-44 contest on the road at No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday.

Starting Fresh: Only four scholarship players return from last season's top-10 finish. All five starters, led by ACC Player of the Year Shane Larkin (coaches) and defensive player of the year Durand Scott, departed following the run to the conference title. The Hurricanes are the only team in the league that didn't return a starter and brought back just 13.3 percent of their scoring and 14.2 percent of their rebounds. The only two current players that have played against UNC are Rion Brown and Garrius Adams.

Brown Taking Charge: It only made sense for the most experienced player on an utterly inexperienced team to move to a leadership on and off the court for Miami. Senior guard Rion Brown is averaging 13.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game to go along with a nearly 2:1 assist-turnover ratio (43/22). The 6-foot-6, 211-pounder has struggled shooting from the floor, however, in connecting on 40.4 percent of his attempts (28.4 percent from 3-point range). Brown shot 37.6 percent from long range (73-of-194) during his first two seasons in Coral Gables, but has converted slightly less than 29 percent ever since.

Shooting Blanks: The shooting struggles aren't isolated to Brown. Of the seven players averaging double-digit minutes on the season, only two – James Kelly and Donnavan Kirk – are shooting 45 percent or higher from the field. Kelly, a junior forward, is averaging 9.1 points per game on 55.1 percent shooting, while Kirk, a fifth-year 6-9 forward, is also scoring 9.1 points per contest on a 47.3 percent effort. Miami has played six games (1-5) this year in which it shot less than 40 percent. The Hurricanes are shooting 42.4 percent on the season, which is good for last place in the ACC.

Making it Tough to Score: Despite their shooting woes, the Hurricanes have been effective defensively. Miami ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense (59.5 ppg) and 58th in field goal percentage defense (40.0). They've been even better of late, holding opponents to 36.4 percent shooting over the last five games. Miami currently ranks ninth in the ACC in field goal percentage defensive and 12th in 3-point field goal percentage defense.

Last Meeting: Miami defeated UNC, 87-77, in the ACC Tournament championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum on Mar. 17, 2013. Larkin and P.J. Hairston both scored 28 points for their respective teams, while both squads combined for 25 3-pointers. Marcus Paige added 17 points for the Tar Heels.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series with Miami, 18-5. The Tar Heels are 9-2 in Chapel Hill against the Hurricanes.

Projected Starters:
15 Rion Brown (6-6, 211, Sr.) - 13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg
25 Garrius Adams (6-6, 200, Sr.) - 10.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg
5 Davon Reed (6-6, 208, Fr.) - 8.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg
35 James Kelly (6-7, 246, Jr.) - 9.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg
22 Donnavan Kirk (6-9, 228, Sr.) - 9.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg

Top Reserves:
20 Manu Lecomte (5-11, 159, Fr.) - 7.1 ppg, 2.1 apg
23 Tonye Jekiri (7-0, 235, So.) - 4.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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