A 16-point lead almost vanished in the final moments on Tuesday night as the Tar Heels tied things up with 4.1 remaining on senior night in Chapel Hill. Instead, a Hurricanes senior silenced the crowd and helped Miami avoid overtime as Ja’Quan Newton hit a 30-foot runner as time expired.

Miami 91, North Carolina 88

Newton’s clutch performance started a minute early, hitting a jumper that pushed the Canes’ lead back to three. From there, four consecutive free throws helped keep UNC at finger’s length—until Joel Berry cooly buried a 3-pointer with 4.1 remaining; momentum fully shifting back to the home team and a packed Dean Smith Center ready for five more minutes to close out a spirited Miami bunch.

Instead, a mid-court dog pile and a sea of black jerseys as the Hurricanes won their second consecutive game in thrilling fashion. On Satruday, Miami overcame a 12-point deficit against Boston College with under four minutes remaining—behind a feisty effort from freshman guard Chris Lykes, capped with a 2-point dagger from Lonnie Walker with 2.3 left on the clock.

Days prior, the Canes hung on to win at Notre Dame—closing strong and outscoring the Irish, 20-12 the final 7:54.

Miami’s three-game win-streak comes on the heels of a three-game skid where everything seemed a bit off. A road trip to Boston College started with an ill Jim Larranaga never leaving the locker room and ended with the Canes going scoreless over the final 6:17, as the Eagles went on a 9-0 run for a 72-70 victory.

Days later, an offense-less showing against defense-minded, top-ranked Virginia resulted in a 59-50 setback—while Syracuse outlasted Miami over the weekend at the Watsco Center. Tied at the half, the Canes fell behind by five midway through the second half and could never catch up, falling 62-55.

In the wake of that loss to the Orange, understandable doom-and-gloom was setting in. Life without superstar Bruce Brown was a harsh reality; sidelined after an overtime road loss at Florida State on January 27th, the sophomore had foot surgery on February 1st and was slated to miss six weeks.

Brown-less, Miami handled Pitt at home and rolled up Virginia Tech on the road—but the loss at Boston College and inability to battle with Virginia seemed to leave the Canes a bit hungover against Syracuse; doubt seeming creeping in due to being a key man down.

A win in South Bend is always a shot in the arm, though Miami almost let it slip away in the second half against Boston College before a mini-miracle comeback. Against North Carolina, it was less about any Canes’ inefficiency and more related to a loaded opponent who looked all the part of their No. 9 ranking.

Turnovers plagued the Tar Heels (13), though the Canes weren’t far behind when it was all said and done (13). Both squads wound up close to even regarding field goal percentage; Miami at 54.8, while a late North Carolina got them to 54.4 by game’s end. Same for 3-pointers as the Canes hit 11-22—including Newton’s game-winner—while the Heels were 13-of-27.

The most-glaring stat when all was said and done; converting from the free throw line. The Tar Heels were 13-of-20 on the night—with the always-clutch Berry was 4-of-7, leaving some needed points out there as North Carolina played catch-up the entire second half.

Conversely, the usually sub-par Hurricanes were a solid 12-of-13 from the charity stripe, with Newton, Anthony Lawrence and Dewan Huell were all strong in the game’s final minutes.

The thrilling victory and three-game win-streak pushed Miami to 21-8 overall and 10-7 in conference; the Canes moving to sixth place in the ACC with one final home game remaining before next week’s conference tourney.

Virginia Tech treks south on Saturday morning as Miami will look to avoid a senior day disaster, a la North Carolina—while also working to not undo all that’s transpired over the past three days. The Hokies are currently 21-9 and 10-7 in conference, as well—the Canes’ current tie-breaker rendered meaningless as the winner will reach 11 conference wins by Saturday afternoon.

Miami’s final regular season opponent also rolls in with some bounce in their step by way of knocking off a Tobacco Road giant. Days before the Canes upset the Tar Heels, Virginia Tech taking down No. 5 Duke in Blacksburg last Sunday afternoon.

Both the Hurricanes and Hokies are tournament locks at this point, so Saturday’s showdown is all about closing strong and rolling into the ACC tournament with momentum, while jockeying for better position and some extra rest.

Miami and Virginia Tech tip off Saturday at the Watsco Center at 12:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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