What a difference a couple of days can make.
After an embarassing 78-73 home loss to NC State that was far from close for most of the game, the Canes responded in a big way Tuesday night. Kenny Kadji scored a game-high 21 points with 8 rebounds, Malcolm Grant added 16 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc, and the Canes beat Georgia Tech in the Phillips Arena 64-49 to earn their second conference win.
The Canes moved the ball efficiently and created some higher percentage scoring chances. Inside out ball movement for threes. High lows to Johnson in the second half late to put the game far out of reach. This was not the jack-up-a-three offense we'd come to know and not love under Frank Haith.
Larkin made his first career ACC start tonight at the point and earned praise from Larranaga after the game for his ball movement. He finished with 6 points, and more importantly a co-game-high 5 assists to only one turnover. In fact, the team finished with an impressive 15-to-7 assist to turnover ratio.
The result was a number of open looks from three, and Miami turned Sunday's 2-for-20 frown upside down by draining 9-of-16 behind the arc. Outside of a mid-second half 6-plus minute drought, the Canes shot well for the game, going 26-of-53. Johnson started an ice-cold 1-for-8, but was key in pulling away late with three baskets in the final four minutes.
However, the real story of the game was on the defensive end.
Scott was charged with blanketing Glen Rice, Jr., the Jackets' leader in points, assists, and rebounds.....and blanket him he most certainly did. The Canes went largely man-to-man, and Rice, Jr. found Scott on his hip all night. Rice, Jr. finished with 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Scott wasn't the only one defending well, as the Canes protected the paint extremely well and forced the Jackets to take contested shots with a hand in their face for most of the night. As a team, Georgia Tech finished a paltry 35.7% from the field. It was the fewest points the Canes allowed this season.
Say what you will about beating a team that just dropped to 8-12 overall and 1-5 in the ACC, but in one of the toughest basketball conferences in the country, you take what you can get. It was also Miami's second road win of the season. And this team looked good getting this one tonight on both ends of the floor, which has to breed some confidence that Larranaga's strong reaction after Sunday's game maybe struck a chord with some players that needed it.
The road only gets harder from here, with trips to Boston College and Duke sandwiched around a home tilt with Maryland. This team has been an enigma at times, and it's not unfair to say that we don't know what we're going to get at any given time, but it was certainly encouraging to see this kind of bounce back performance in a game they simply could not afford to lose.