CHAPEL HILL — Before every Senior Night game, North Carolina coach Roy Williams reminds each underclassman to take care of the old guys with a victory.
But today, Williams said Tuesday night after his team beat Miami 69-62, the old guys took care of themselves.
Playing as if they wanted to extend their college careers and now, they just might seniors Marcus Ginyard (first career double-double) and Deon Thompson (14 points, despite a sore back) led the Tar Heels to the 2,000th win in program history, kept Williams undefeated (22-0) on Senior Night, and gave UNC its first two-game winning streak since December.
It also puts Carolina (16-14, 5-10 ACC) two games above .500, and in better position for an NIT bid although the players havent given up on making a miraculous ACC tournament run for an automatic NCAA berth.
Its huge for this team to have these two games in a row, something weve never had, said Ginyard, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. We know that we have a huge challenge ahead of us, but I think this team is starting to get to the point where were focusing on the day-to-day, and knowing we have a chance to do something special.
One of the reasons the seniors were able to make their final game at the Smith Center special was their grit and poise down the stretch.
UNC which had a double-digit lead in the first half of an ACC game for the first time this season -- led by as many as 18 points early in the second half, before Miami cut it to 59-58 with 3:20 left on a 3-pointer by Adrian Thomas.
Thats when Thompson who had left the game temporarily with an aching back buried a turnaround jumper with 3:03 to go to give his team a three-point cushion.
It was pretty bad, Thompson said of the pain. I couldnt move, I couldnt run. I came back in and shot an air ball but the last thing I wanted to think about was that its my senior night, and I went out hurt. I just wanted to go back out there, give whatever I had leave it out there.
After point guard Larry Drew II made a free throw with 1:32 left to give UNC a 62-58 lead, Ginyard slowed by injuries of his own the entire season -- grabbed his 10th rebound of the game. The he grabbed two more and made three of four free throws -- in the final minute to help his team pull away, for good.
I just dont think it couldve happened better for me tonight, Ginyard said. Ive flirted with a double-double in the past, and [video coordinator] Eric Hoots is always joking, telling me Im scared of a double-double. I told him tonight, I wasnt scared of it, I looked up there and I saw 9 points, 9 rebounds, and knew I had time to do it [and] it was exciting to me, just to feel healthy enough to get my hands on those balls and make some shots.
Ginyard, who has now pulled down 35 rebounds in his last three games, helped his team beat Miami up on the boards, 51-27. The Hurricanes, who shot only 34.8 percent, were also hurt by the fact that star forward Dwayne Collins played only five minutes in the second half because of an injury.
Miami guard Durand Scott led all scorers with 29 points. Junior Will Graves had 16 points for the Tar Heels, and forward John Henson pulled down 12 rebounds.
This wasnt just about basketball; I remember going into Thompsons home, Williams said. It wasnt just about our basketball team, it was about what Deon has done for four year and Marcus for five years.
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