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Lawson, North Carolina hold off McClinton, Miami

Feb 16, 2009 - 4:39 AM CORAL GABLES, Florida (Ticker) -- Miami's zone defense was able to neutralize Tyler Hansbrough, but could not stop Ty Lawson's outside shooting down the stretch.

Lawson scored 21 points and Wayne Ellington added 15 and 10 rebounds as third-ranked North Carolina held on for a 69-65 victory over Miami on Sunday.

Lawson was 7-of-12 from the field and made a career-high five 3-pointers on eight attempts from the arc for the Tar Heels (23-2, 9-2 ACC), who won their ninth straight game.

"Last year I thought he was a big-time shooter and just didn't look for it," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "So, I've talked to him all season about not forgetting his outside shot, and he hasn't forgotten it this year."

North Carolina, which failed to score 70 points for the first time this season, improved its lead in the Atlantic Coast Conference to two games over Duke (7-4), which lost at Boston College earlier in the day.

"We had guys that had opportunities to make plays and we missed so many open shots," Williams said. "We shot some airballs. Then all of a sudden, Ty made three baskets in a row that were really useful for us."

Miami trailed, 64-63, when Brian Asbury was called for an offensive foul while attempting to drive on Hansbrough with 45 seconds to play.

The Tar Heels used most of the shot clock before Lawson drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with 10 seconds to go, making it a four-point game. The shot was Lawson's third 3-pointer in the final 3:37 of the contest.

Jack McClinton drove the length of the court for a layup to cut the deficit to 67-65, but Lawson made a pair from the line with three seconds left to seal the victory.

"This was obviously a tough loss," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "I thought our kids competed - played their butts off and played hard. We got down, but I thought our guys fought hard and competed the whole game."

Hansbrough finished with eight points and four rebounds, failing to score in double figures for the second time this season. North Carolina's all-time leading scorer attempted one shot in the second half.

"I thought we did a good job on Tyler Hansbrough," Haith said. "He has been a Miami killer over the years and we did a really good job on him."

McClinton finished with a season-high 35 points for Miami (15-9, 4-7), which lost for the fifth time in its last six games. The senior made seven 3-pointers and topped the 30-point mark for the third consecutive contest.

"I would rather score two points and win," McClinton said. "At the same time we have to look at these games and grow from them. We have to keep watching film and do the little things. We still have five games and everyone has to believe. If one person is not with us it is going to hurt us."

North Carolina scored the final seven points of the first half to take a 29-26 edge at the intermission. The 29 points were the lowest for the Tar Heels in the first half this season.

The Tar Heels made its first three 3-pointers to open up the second half and eventually opened up a 47-37 lead on Lawson's shot from the arc with 15:12 remaining.

North Carolina pushed the lead to 14 before McClinton scored eight straight points to pull the Hurricanes within 54-48 with 9:15 to play.

McClinton continued to keep Miami close, scoring on a driving layup before Asbury made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 58-57 with 4:42 remaining.

"I didn't feel like we were rebounding the ball very well at all," Williams said. "I give Miami credit - their defense spread us out a little bit. We didn't get the penetration that we needed, but it was a win."

Lawson made two straight 3-pointers for North Carolina, but each one was answered by a shot from the arc for Miami. McClinton cut the deficit to 64-63 with 2:24 left.