GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina and its four-guard lineup have a chance at another ACC championship.
Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock scored 15 points apiece, and the Tar Heels held on to beat the Maryland Terrapins 79-76 on Saturday in the semifinals.
Next up: a meeting today with No. 9 Miami, the tournament’s top seed, with North Carolina’s 18th league tournament title on the line.
The Hurricanes’ regular-season sweep included a humiliating 26-point win last month at Miami that led coach Roy Williams to make P.J. Hairston a starter and play with a smaller, quicker group.
“They haven’t seen us with our new lineup yet,” Bullock said. “We just have to get our face back. They definitely embarrassed us when we went down there … and for us to have the opportunity to play against them on the last night before we go to the NCAA tournament is great.”
Hairston scored 13 points despite a heavily wrapped and injured left (non-shooting) hand for the third-seeded Tar Heels (24-9), but his missed free throw with 16 seconds left gave Maryland a chance to force overtime.
The Terps called time out with 10.9 seconds left, and Logan Aronhalt took the inbounds pass from Nick Faust and immediately launched a 30-foot airball.
The Tar Heels ran out the clock to clinch their league-record 32nd appearance in the title game.
Alex Len had 20 points to lead seventh-seeded Maryland (22-12).
NO. 9 MIAMI 81, N.C. STATE 71
Durand Scott knocked down the shots to turn away N.C. State’s best pushes, and Shane Larkin provided the floor leadership that kept Miami in control.
The backcourt that guided the Hurricanes to their first ACC regular-season championship now has them positioned to add the tournament title, too.
Scott scored a career-high 32 points to help the Hurricanes earn the program’s first trip to the final.
Larkin added 23 for the top-seeded Hurricanes (26-6), who before Saturday had reached the ACC semifinals once.
“We’re a very hungry team, and we want more and more,” Larkin said. “We’re not satisfied with winning the regular season.”
Miami led all day and by 19 points late in the first half against the fifth-seeded Wolfpack (24-10), who got within six after halftime but couldn’t dig out of that big hole.