NEW YORK (AP) — Theo Pinson scored a career-high 25 points and had 11 rebounds, lifting No. 12 North Carolina while its other stars were struggling, and the Tar Heels beat Miami 82-65 on Thursday night to set up a second straight Atlantic Coast Conference semifinal meeting with Duke in Brooklyn.
The fifth-seeded Tar Heels (24-9) face the fifth-ranked and second-seeded Blue Devils for the third time this season on Friday night for a spot in the championship game – just as the rivals did last year in the tournament’s debut at Barclays Center. It will be the 22nd time Duke and North Carolina play in the ACC Tournament. Duke leads 13-8.
Ja’Quan Newton, who beat North Carolina nine days ago in Chapel Hill with a 40-foot buzzer beater, scored 17 points for third-seeded Miami (22-9).
Pinson scored 10 points in 3 1/2 minutes of the second half, including a corner 3 to make it 69-63 with 4:25 left. Forty-two seconds later, Pinson dribbled through the Miami press and threw down a slam that had the UNC fans chanting ”Taarrr! Heels!”
The defending national champions needed the senior, because the Heels’ top two scorers were off.
Luke Maye, UNC’s leading scorer, went 1 for 15 from the field and point guard Joel Berry II shot 4 for 14, playing through a twisted ankle.
North Carolina (24-9) advances to Friday’s 9 p.m. semifinal game against No. 2 seed and nationally fifth-ranked Duke (26-6). The teams split during the regular season, with each side winning at home (UNC 82-78 on Feb. 8 and Duke 74-64 last Saturday).