BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Isaiah Hicks continued his strong play with 19 points as No. 1 seed North Carolina exacted revenge on No. 9 seed Miami, 78-53, in ACC Tournament quarterfinal round action on Thursday.
Hicks, who scored 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting on Senior Night against Duke, made his first five field goal attempts and was a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line against the Hurricanes. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists.
The senior forward’s recent production confirms his emergence from a late-season slump following a hamstring injury. Prior to the regular season finale against the Blue Devils, Hicks was averaging 5.4 points on 44.4 percent shooting over his last five games.
"Just focusing on the game," Hicks said when asked about his turnaround. "Not worrying about anything else. I had a talk with Coach, just play the game. Lose myself in the game. I feel like that's the biggest thing that helps me so far."
Hicks also logged 25 minutes, above his conference average of 22.8, due in large part to committing just one foul. That's only the fifth time this season the Oxford, N.C. native has committed fewer than two fouls in a game.
"I like him playing 25 [minutes] better than I do seven or 11 or nine," Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference. "I have seen some of those. It's pretty important to me."
Second Half Separation
UNC shot 53.1 percent (6-of-11 3FG) after halftime to Miami’s 30.0 percent (3-of-13 3FG).
Jackson Shooting Slump
Justin Jackson secured his ACC Player of the Year award by scoring 20 or more points in eight of 10 games during the grind of league play. With opposing defenses focusing more on limiting his touches, the Tar Heel wing has struggled to find his rhythm from deep in his last three games, converting just 4-of-20 attempts from 3-point range.
Jackson scored 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting (2-of-7 3FG) in Thursday’s win.
Capitalizing Off Turnovers
UNC was outscored, 11-0, in fast break points in the loss at Miami. In the rematch, the Tar Heels scored 12 transition points, due in large part to forcing 14 turnovers. UNC scored 21 points off those turnovers, which represents its second-high total over the past 13 games.
Game of Runs
Miami appeared to build off its win over Syracuse on Wednesday with an early 9-2 spurt to take an 11-6 lead. In a role reversal of what transpired in the first matchup in Coral Gables, the Tar Heels answered with a 26-9 run over the next 12:06, holding the Hurricanes to 2-of-10 shooting and forcing seven turnovers. Jim Larranaga’s squad rallied just before halftime, outscoring UNC 9-2 over the final 1:40.
The Tar Heels delivered the determining burst early in the second half, scoring 12 points in their first five possessions to turn a 34-31 margin into a 46-34 lead.
UNC will face the winner of the 4/5 game between Louisville and Duke. The Cardinals received a double-bye as the tournament’s No. 4 seed. The Blue Devils outlasted Clemson, 79-72, in second round action on Wednesday.