Clutch! Game! Resilient! Outstanding!
Hurricanes Hoops are all that and then some. Overcoming another sluggish offensive performance and a determined effort from a very tough Virginia squad, Miami made 2 HUGE plays in the closing moments to defeat UVA 54-50 in front of a raucous Bank United Center crowd.
UM came out strong, with Julian Gamble scoring inside off a nice offensive set to open the game. Joe Harris hit a contested jumper to get Virginia on the board shortly after. But Durand Scott scored inside on consecutive possessions for a quick 4 point lead.
The highlight early on was a Gamble defensive clinic, as he blocked Akil Mitchell 3 consecutive times on one possession in a display that got Dikembe Mutombo out of his seat somewhere.
Miami led 10-6 following a nice drive by Shane Larkin. UM showed great balance, and when Trey McKinney Jones hit a jumper to extend to a 16-9 lead, every starter had scored. From there both teams went ice cold, with the lead rotating between 4-6 points for a period. Rion Brown got UM's first offensive rebound with a tip in of his own miss at the 4 minute mark, but the Hoos were hanging tight with some pretty good defense of their own and opportunistic offense.
The game got ragged in the closing minutes of the opening half with a couple of conspicuous non calls helping to keep the score low. Nonetheless Miami held the advantage 24-22 at the half behind Gamble's 8 points. Jontel Evans paced UVA with 6. Miami was 0-4 from deep in the opening 20 minutes.
Darion Atkins 10 footer tied things up in the opening minute of the second half, but Kenny Kadji's rainbow jumper gave UM the lead right back. Harris hit a ridiculously difficult runner to knot things back up. For a second consecutive game, the 'Canes opponent blitzed their high pick and rolls, and at times this gave UM's offense fits. Both sides in fact, struggled to find shots for periods. There was no foreshadowing the exciting finish to come during several lulls.
Evan Nolte's free throw gave Virginia its' first lead at 29-28. But as usual, Miami responded. The defense ratcheted up another level and Rion Brown knocked down the Hurricanes' first triple of the night to cap an 8-0 run for a 36-29 lead. The BUC exploded!!!
UVA continued to bounce back though, with Mitchell getting loose on the break to cut it back to 4. UM' struggles at the line also helped the Hoos hang in. Back to back threes by Paul Jesperson and Justin Anderson cut the lead to 1. Big Reg then got loose inside and swatted Joe Harris on consecutive possessions as things got intense in the final 5. Harris, Kadji, Anderson and Brown traded buckets and Miami clung to a 46-43 lead!!!!
In a frantic and classic final two minutes the game went back and forth. Virginia ran a perfect play to get Harris free from deep to tie things up. But with ice water in his veins Larkin sliced through the D to put UM back up a deuce. Harris next drove to the bucket and got fouled but short-armed the second of two FTs with a chance to tie. Larkin's two from the charity stripe upped the lead back to three and Kadji blocked a long Harris attempt, but it was still UVA ball.
That's when the freshman Nolte clanked a long three pointer in off the rim despite airtight defense, to tie it yet again at 50!
But there was more dramatics to come.
Miami took over with 17 seconds to go. Shane Larkin dribbled around a high screen and made a clutch pinpoint pass to a wide open Reggie Johnson under the bucket to regain the lead!! Durand Scott made an equally clutch steal on the ensuing in-bounds pass, and knocked down both free throws after getting fouled for the final margin.
Faced YET again with an opponent who played their hearts out, Miami made all the big plays when it counted most.
Off the court, the program itself will soon be faced with a challenge of its' own. If President Shalala and the powers that be handle it as cool and deft as the Hoops team, Hurricanes fans will have little to worry about. But that is a tail for another day. The bigger story for now is an incredible team that flat out refuses to lose.
Player of the Game:Julian Gamble (8 points 7 rebounds 4 blocks) takes first half honors, doing most of his damage in the first 20 minutes. Reggie Johnson (8 points 7 rebounds) takes second half honors with another game winner.
The Good: The defense was outstanding. Virginia made more then a few contested shots and played with desperation. Miami made them work for just about every one of those 50 points. Shane Larkin's perfect pass at the end was a thing of beauty.
The Bad: 9-16 from the line doesn't look THAT bad. But they missed enough to prevent a much easier win.
The Ugly: 1-7 from three. Miami needs to rediscover their touch from deep.
Next Game: UM heads to Winston-Salem to take on Wake, Saturday 2/23 at 1PM.
|Trey McKinney Jones||1-3||0-2||0-0||0||3||1||0||2|
- Technical Fouls:
- BankUnited Center, Coral Gables, FL