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Previewing Miami

No. 5 North Carolina and No. 11 Miami square off for sole possession of first place in the ACC standings at the Smith Center on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. and will be televised by CBS.

North Carolina (21-5, 10-3 ACC) vs. Miami (21-4, 10-3 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 1 p.m.
CBS (Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery)

Quotables

“Our game Saturday is for first place. Our game on Monday could be for first place. Then the game the following Saturday could be for first place. And then the game the next Wednesday could be for first place. But only if you win. These are very challenging games, but ones you look forward to." – Miami head coach Jim Larranaga

“We can be in first place now, but if we don't focus and do what we're supposed to do, we can finish in fifth place, literally. It's that close of a race.’’ – Miami guard Angel Rodriguez

PREGAME NOTES

Season to Date: Miami enters Saturday’s contest with a 21-4 (10-3 ACC) record. Despite a shocking home loss to Northeastern in November, the Hurricanes won 13 of their first 14 games before dropping a pair of ACC road games to No. 7 Virginia and Clemson in early January. Since then, Miami has won eight of its last nine games, including its last five. The Hurricanes follow Saturday’s trip to Chapel Hill with a Monday night matchup with the Cavaliers.

Hurricane McClellan: Senior guard Sheldon McClellan leads Miami with a team-high 16.1 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting from the field and 39.8 percent from the 3-point line. He is one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation, currently ranked first by kenpom.com among players active in at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions. McClellan has hit 10 3-pointers over his last five games and has converted 39 of his last 44 free throw attempts. He is capable of penetrating past guards while possessing a smooth shot, which will make him a handful for UNC on the defensive end.

Angel Running the Show: Senior guard Angel Rodriguez has been the Hurricanes’ second option on offense, averaging 11.5 points per game on 41.8 percent shooting while dishing out 4.4 assists per contest, good for fifth in the ACC. He has bounced back from an abysmal performance at Georgia Tech on Feb. 7 (held scoreless on 0-6 shooting), averaging 14 points, six assists and nearly two steals per game in his last three games. Last year, Rodriguez was extremely limited against UNC with a sprained right hand, playing just 3 minutes and registering only 1 assist.

Newton Cleared to Play: Sophomore guard Ja’Quan Newton will play against North Carolina after missing the Virginia Tech game with a medical condition. Newton, considered by some as the best sixth man in the country, is Miami’s third-leading scorer with 11.4 points per game. Newton has scored in double-figures 18 times this season while hitting exactly 50 percent of his attempts from inside the 3-point line.

A Balanced Storm: Miami is one of the best two-way teams in the nation, ranked 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency and 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency by kenpom.com. The Hurricanes are holding their opponents to 41.7 percent shooting while converting 47.6 percent of their opportunities offensively. Miami also leads the ACC in turnover margin (plus-2.54) in league games.

Board Work: Given their size in the post and on the wing, one might think the Hurricanes would be better on the glass than they have been. Miami ranks 87th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-3.1), although that differential is down to minus-1.4 in ACC play, where it ranks 10th. They have done plenty of damage on the offensive glass, however, where they rank 11th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.

Larranaga’s Success vs. UNC: Since Larrañaga arrived at Miami, the Hurricanes are 4-3 against UNC with all of the wins coming from a four-game winning streak by Miami that began in the 2012-13 season. That streak included an ACC Tournament Championship Game victory in 2013. Larrañaga also coached his 11th-seeded George Mason team into the Final Four in 2006, knocking off Tyler Hansbrough and his 3rd-seeded Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated the Hurricanes, 73-64, at the BankUnited Center on Feb. 28, 2015. Brice Johnson led UNC with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Marcus Paige added 17 points. The Tar Heels used an 8-0 spurt in the final minutes to break open a three-point game and cement the victory.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 19-6. Miami has won four of the last five meetings.

Projected Starters:
10 Sheldon McClellan (6-5, 200, Gr.) – 16.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg
13 Angel Rodriguez (5-11, 2185, Sr.) - 11.5 ppg, 4.4 apg
23 Tonye Jekiri (7-0, 248, Sr.) - 8.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg
05 Davon Reed (6-6, 210, Jr.) - 10.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
21 Kamari Murphy (6-8, 220, Jr.) - 6.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg

Top Reserves:
00 Ja’Quan Newton (6-2, 180, So.) - 11.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg
33 Ivan CruzUceda (6-10, 217, Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
03 Anthony Lawrence (6-7, 210, Fr.) – 4.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg

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