CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 5 North Carolina's roster as a whole turned in a signature effort against No. 11 Miami on Saturday.
Six different Tar Heels finished with double-figures scoring, including Nate Britt and Theo Pinson off the bench, in in their 96-71 drubbing of the Hurricanes.
“Today was a must-win,” Pinson said. “Both fighting for No. 1, so we had to come out and play hard.”
Pinson, Britt and Isaiah Hicks each improved upon dismal performances against Duke to storm back against a top-15 opponent with first place in the ACC on the line. The trio finished with 10 combined points on Wednesday, and each finished Saturday’s win with at least 10 points.
“There were a couple of different possessions where different people were scoring back-to-back,” Hicks, who scored 12 points in his third start of the season. “When teams do that, it’s hard to guard.”
This trio in particular is critical to UNC’s success beyond the performances of the normal starting five. The Tar Heels are 6-0 when Pinson scores in double digits, 5-0 when Britt does the same and 12-2 when Hicks reaches that benchmark.
“We’re way more mature than we were last year,” Pinson said.
It’s not just the tangible statistics that define what this group can do for the team. Midway through the first half, Pinson dove for a loose ball at the top of the key on the defensive end. The Hurricanes came up with the ball and found James Palmer open at the top of the key. Pinson recovered, contested the 3-pointer, forced the miss, rebounded the ball at the free throw line and took off, drawing contact, finishing the layup and getting the foul call.
The play capped off a 10-2 run that gave UNC an early lead that eventually grew to 38 points.
“We need a spark pretty much every night, because our starters give us a lot,” Pinson said. “So we’ve got to have a couple guys off the bench step up on some nights.”
Britt didn’t provide a singular moment that stood out like Pinson’s 3-point play, although he did bury two of his three attempts from beyond the 3-point line.
“Theo came out and played his game, which was great to see,” sophomore wing Justin Jackson said. “Nate came out and played extremely well.”
Hicks earned his first start since the Boston College game and made the most of it, scoring his dozen on 6-of-9 shooting and snagging 5 rebounds.
“I know when we go against teams with different players that’s constantly scoring, you don’t know who’s gonna score, so that’s always hurting the opposing team,” Hicks said. “Everybody’s on their game.”