After back-to-back overtime games, this was a welcome change, at least for my ticker.
Miami jumped ahead 20-8, and cruised to a comfortable 65-49 win before a seemingly sparse crowd at the BankUnited Center. Miami was led by Reggie Johnson, who led the team in points (15), rebounds (7) and assists (4). Tech was led by their star, Erick Green, with a game-high 17 points on 7-17 shooting.
However, it's what Johnson had that Green didn't that made the difference --- help......
In what is becoming a welcome trend, Miami continues to distance itself from the Haith days with great ball movement, a spiked assist-to-turnover ratio, and balanced scoring. Kenny Kadji, who relieved Johnson as the team's only big man at certain points in the game, got to the line for a team-high 6 FTs en route to 11 points, with 3 blocks on the other end. Shane Larkin (14 pts) continued to be a pleasant suprise, helping to break through Tech's attempted full court press and 1-3-1 halfcourt trap in the second half and scoring the game's last 6 points. Larkin has distanced himself clearly as this team's best ball-handler. Rion Brown (8 pts) had a thunderous dunk on a rebound that you might see on Sportscenter near the end of the first half. Trey McKinney-Jones added 7 pts. DeQuan Jones had 3 blocks, 4 points. All gave double-digit minutes, and productive ones at that.
Why is this so important? It shows Miami has the depth to overcome nights when some of its stars are off. There is little doubt that previous Miami teams didn't. Tonight Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott combined for 6 points on a woeful 2-for-16 from the field. Yet, their teammates picked them up with big plays on both ends of the floor. That's how teams win in March, and is no small reason Miami has won 5 ACC games in a row for the first time ever.
Cane fans had reason to be concerned tonight, with the boys coming off a win against Duke and hearing on campus how good they were. Tech was 2-6 in the conference. This had letdown written all over it. But Miami did what teams who ultimately wind up on the right side of the bubble typically do--- they win games they're supposed to win. Miami grabbed the Hokies by the throat in the first half and kept them at a double-digit distance for most of the game. As a result, they're tied with Virginia for 5th in the ACC and only one game back of FSU/UNC/Duke for 1st.
We'll see if Miami can keep the good times rolling this weekend in Tallahassee.