Coach Larranaga had the 'Canes focused for this David vs. Goliath ACC match-up inside the unfriendly confines of the Carrier Dome. The 'Canes showed early on they were not going to lay down for the Jim Boeheim coached Syracuse Orange.
Through the first half Syracuse was able to force a few turnovers and capitalize on enough offensive opportunities to build a slim 4-point lead at the half. Miami played patiently on offense and with a ton of energy on defense. Instead of trying to force the action against the vaunted Syracuse zone, they took what was available - even if it meant using up most of the shot clock.
Led by Garrius Adams, the 'Canes went into the intermission with a puncher's chance. Speaking of punchers, Trevor Cooney (no relation to Gerry Cooney) helped the 'Canes out by having a miserable day from downtown.
When the 2nd stanza began, it was clear that the 'Canes weren't going to go down without a fight. Miami went on a nice run that featured 3-pointers by Manu Lecomte and Adams, a tip-dunk by James Kelly and a short jumper by Rion Brown. Tonye Jekiri had one of his best games as a 'Cane as the sophomore big man contested a lot of shots and contributed offensively.
With 5 minutes left in the contest, Syracuse cut a 5-point deficit to the slimmest of leads, 40-39. Coach Larranaga seemed to sense the game possibly slipping away, and used a timeout to set something up. On the inbounds, Lecomte committed an offensive foul and C.J. Fair made the 'Canes pay with a solid post move. Tyler Ennis then scored on the easiest of layups.
On the resulting possession, Tonye Jekiri couldn't handle the ball and Syracuse had a 3-point lead and possession with time growing scarce. With a 43-40 lead, Stracuse went back to Fair who was swatted by Donnavan Kirk. The defensive play gave Miami second life and James Kelly scored.
With 1 minute left Adams missed a tying 3-pointer. Cooney then got bailed out with a ridiculous call on Adams which sealed the game.
The Bottom Line: This game shows what is both exciting and maddening about this year's 'Canes team. The 'Canes have let a bunch of games slip away late this year, which is often a function of experience. What is great to see with this team is that they generally play to the level of their competition. Of course, when Miami plays inferior teams it's maddening, but against squads like Syracuse, it's a good sign for the future.
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