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No. 12 UNC, No. 24 Miami meet in ACC quarterfinals

North Carolina and Miami are set for a rematch in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., after they went to the buzzer last week.

The No. 24 Hurricanes (22-8) have won four consecutive games by a total of eight points, including a road victory over the No. 12 Tar Heels on a Ja'Quan Newton last-second 3-point shot on Feb. 27 at Chapel Hill, N.C.

North Carolina (23-9) is the sixth seed in the conference tournament while Miami is the No. 3 seed with the benefit of a double-bye before Thursday's matchup.

The Tar Heels beat Syracuse 78-59 in a second-round game Wednesday night. In a balanced scoring effort, North Carolina was led by guard Kenny Williams (17 points), forward Theo Pinson (16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists), forward Luke Maye (13 points and nine rebounds) and guard Cameron Johnson (13 points).

A month ago, Miami was on a three-game losing streak and looking like an NCAA Tournament bubble team. Despite playing without injured guard Bruce Brown, the Hurricanes managed to go 7-3 in their past 10 games and are a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

"It's a new team, new faces," said freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV, who made the ACC All-Rookie team. "The beginning of the season it was kind of hard. We didn't know each other's strengths and weaknesses and what we do and don't like. Now that we're going into the ACC tournament, it's definitely a big game-changer.

"We click at the right time. That's going into the tournament. We've got confidence with how we've been playing these past few games and hope that it transfers over."

Miami coach Jim Larranaga said the absence of Brown, who will not be back before the NCAA Tournament, has allowed other players to develop.

"Bruce Brown is absolutely a tremendous kid, a tremendous player, a tremendous leader for our program," Larranaga said. "In many ways, we miss him, but in many ways it gave other players opportunities to step up. If you look at the minutes played, the guy who has probably gained the most minutes is (forward) Sam Waardenburg or (guard) Chris Lykes.

"I mean, neither one of them played like Bruce, but the combination of those two freshmen (has been beneficial)."

Larranaga added that he expects another hard-fought game against North Carolina.

"UNC has the experience, they've won more ACC championships than anyone else since I've been here; they're very, very good in tournament play," he said.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams is trying to get the most out of his team in this tournament despite the fact he downplays its significance annually. He used to call the ACC Tournament a "cocktail party."

"I've stopped saying it just because I didn't want to listen to people criticize me," Williams said. "It's not the most important thing in the world to me, there's no question about that.

"I've tried to stop being so crass and cruel about it. I want to win because I'm playing in it. Period. But I really want to win that next one (the NCAA tournament) because we're playing in it."
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