UM coach Jim Larranaga hopes for big home crowd Tuesday as Hurricanes play Tar Heels

·3 min read
SAM NAVARRO/Special for the Miami Herald

Classes resume at the University of Miami on Tuesday after winter break, and Hurricanes men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga hopes the students will show up in big numbers for the 7 p.m. game against ACC rival North Carolina.

Miami leads the conference with a 5-1 league record and is seeking to rebound from a one-point loss to Florida State last week, the Canes’ only loss in the past 10 games.

“From my experience at Miami tells me that playing North Carolina at home is a big draw, that people love the big games,” Larranaga said. “Duke, North Carolina, it doesn’t matter where you play them, that’s a big game. I hope our fans and students will turn out and I hope they’ll wear their masks and try to stay safe. And if they’re not comfortable, they’ll stay home and watch it on TV or listen to [WQAM announcer] Joe Zagacki on the radio — all of those are good options.”

Not including the 2021 COVID-era game, the last three times Miami hosted the Tar Heels the average attendance was more than 7,500.

Tuesday’s game is a battle between two of the top teams in the ACC. Miami is 13-4 overall and UNC is 12-4 and 4-1 in the conference. Miami is a guard-oriented team that does not have big bodies in the paint, which means the Hurricanes will have to neutralize Carolina’s size in other ways like it did in a road upset win at Duke with 15 steals.

“Carolina is major challenge for us because of their size, speed and scoring ability,” Larranaga said.

The Tar Heels are led by center Armando Bacot, one of the top players in the nation. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior is averaging 17.4 points and an ACC-best 11.3 rebounds per game. He had 29 points and 21 rebounds against Virginia.

“Bacot is playing at an extremely high level right now, and Carolina is really exploiting his ability to score and rebound at both ends,” Larranaga said. “He’s having a sensational year.”

Miami forward Anthony Walker said the Tar Heels are just as dangerous under first-year coach Hubert Davis as they were under legendary Roy Williams.

“Despite the coaching change, they’re pretty similar. They still race up the court and try to score as quickly as possible,” Walker said. “That is something I’ve gotten to play against over the years and Coach L really puts emphasis on, that they go attack the basket in the first five seconds of the shot clock. So, just knowing that they’re big, they like to post up and they like to run the floor, it’s an emphasis that we put on in practice and during film.”

Miami’s backcourt trio of Charlie Moore, Isaiah Wong and Kameron McGusty will have its hands full against North Carolina’s Caleb Love (15.5 points, 3.4 assists) and RJ Davis (13.4 points, 3.8 assists).

“RJ Davis and Caleb Love are basically scoring machines,” Larranaga said. “They can shoot it from deep, they can shoot it off the bounce, can score in transition, they make threes and then when [Grady] Manek steps out and stretches your team out at the four, they become an outstanding offensive juggernaut. They’re playing great right now. They’re not winning, they’re winning big and the three-point shooting is an added dimension to an already outstanding tremendous inside game.”