MIAMI – Needing to bounce back from its first loss of the season, there was only one guy North Carolina was going to look to: All-America forward Tyler Hansbrough.
The big man had a huge second half to carry the No. 5 Tar Heels to a 98-82 win against Miami at BankUnited Center.
Hansbrough finished with a season-high 35 points, 27 of which came in the second half.
"I thought Tyler was great," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
While Hansbrough was the big second-half man for the Tar Heels (19-1, 4-1 in the ACC), point guard Ty Lawson had a 15-point first half on the way to 23 points.
Lawson, who has scored in double figures in seven straight games, did it in this game by being aggressive, often outrunning the defense and beating the Hurricanes (14-4, 1-3) down the floor.
"I've always wanted to push the ball," Williams said. "Nobody I've ever had pushes the ball faster on the dribble than Ty does."
Lawson had 10 assists with just one turnover and said that after doing a good chunk of scoring in the first half, he wanted to make sure his teammates got involved.
"Everybody on our team has good hands, so it's not too hard to have high assists and low turnovers," Lawson said.
Carolina had a season-low seven turnovers in the game, including two in the final 20 minutes, while shooting almost 56 percent in the second half.
The double-digit win was big for the Tar Heels considering their first two road wins in ACC play were by a combined three points, and they were coming off a narrow home loss to Maryland.
"We needed this one," Williams said. "We needed to play well on the road."
Despite the focus coming into this game on intensity – Marcus Ginyard said "competing" was a big theme at practice the two days before the game – Carolina's defense was still less than stellar.
Miami shot 49.2 percent in the game and had four scorers in double figures.
But the one Hurricane the Tar Heels did shut down was a big one.
Jack McClinton, who averages better than 16 points per game and has scored in double figures 10 straight games, had only 11 points.
And it took a 3-pointer with four minutes to go to even get into double figures for McClinton, who was 1-for-6 shooting at the half and had just three points.
"We knew coming in that he's got the ability to really be that spark for this team," Ginyard said. "We knew he was going to try to get touches in the second half, and I wanted to be there every time he caught the ball."
After calling the loss to Maryland a "wake-up call," it would have stood to reason that North Carolina would have come out more fired up than it did.
But the Tar Heels spent a good deal of the first half trading baskets – and at one point scoring runs – with the Hurricanes, who shot 50 percent in the period.
In six of the last seven games, the Tar Heels have allowed the opponent to shoot 50 percent in at least one half.
"In the first half, I was still concerned with our defense, but Miami's a good basketball team," Williams said.
UNC at one point held Miami nearly four minutes without a bucket to build an early eight-point lead. But the Canes answered by holding the Tar Heels without a field goal for almost five minutes and going on a 10-0 run of their own.
Offensive rebounds were Carolina's saving grace in the first half.
Snagging 13 boards on the offensive end allowed UNC to score 10 second-chance points and take a 47-40 lead to the locker room.
Then it was just a matter of getting the ball to Hansbrough so he could do what he does best.
"I felt good in the second half," Hansbrough said. "I felt things were just falling my way. Ty, with his penetration, did a lot of things for me."