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NIT Bound? Miami Basketball Starts Slow, Loses to Notre Dame 70-63

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A classic second half comeback wiped away a gigantic deficit. But the Hurricanes just didn't have enough.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UM faced a simple proposition heading into tonight's quarterfinal contest with Notre Dame.

Win and you're in the NCAA Tournament.   Lose and it's a crap shoot.

Well the 'Canes better have their lucky dice handy on Selection Sunday.

Miami dug a huge hole, completely erased it, but faded down the stretch in an agonizing 70-63 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Quarterfinals.

UM fell behind immediately as the Irish were quicker to the ball, and the 'Canes looked a little flat footed. Every jumper was short and they did move their collective feet very well on defense.

It was 7-0 ND before Davon Reed followed his own miss nearly 5 minutes in to put Miami on the board.

Frankly the Hurricanes' body language did not look the part of a team playing for their NCAA lives, at the onset.

The Irish stretched the lead to 17-4 as Steve Vasturia scored 8 quick points, including two long range bombs.

Angel Rodriguez came off the bench to score 8 quick points, but it hardly dented the runaway train that was Notre Dame's offense.

Miami was repeatedly late to get out on shooters and the Irish made them pay, going 7 for their first 8 on threes to stretch the lead to 33-14.

Desperate to shake things Coach Larranaga went zone.

Pat Connaughton made them pay.

The Irish' 6'5 do it all forward knocked down his first 4 bombs.  Meanwhile UM was 1 for their first 7.  The clang of the rim on missed 'Canes jumpers was the only thing louder in the arena than boisterous fans who made their way to Greensboro from South Bend.

Things were getting ugly.

One team was moving the ball and unselfishly finding the open man.  The other stubbornly went 1 on 2 and 1 on 3 time and time again.

At the half it was 43-25 Irish.

Notre Dame has 12 assists on 15 buckets.

Miami had 1 assist on 10.  Tonye Jekiri was a lone bright spot with 9 points and 8 boards in the opening stanza.

The second half was a whole other ball game.

The 'Canes came out poised on offense, and peskier in their match-up zone on defense.

A ridiculous 16-1 run ensued sparked by a Rodriguez 3, and some nice finishes by Sheldon McClellan.

Before you knew it, we had a contest!

The fight in the 'Canes was evident as Ivan Cruz Uceda refused to release the ball into the grip of Demetrius Jackson after a jump ball was called 8 minutes in.

At the 9 minute mark, the stretch 4 from Spain tied things up at 47 all with a triple

A minute later it was Jekiri tussling for the ball with Grant.

Things were getting heated before and after the whistles.

Miami took their first lead of the game with 6:30 to go as McClellan knocked in a pair from the charity stripe.

But Vasturia hit a three and Jackson got a bucket in transition to put Notre Dame back in front.

UM kept fighting, but a few bad calls and unfortunate breaks, and  couple of point blank shots that wouldn't stay down hampered the comeback.

Jekiri fouled out of the game at 3:26 mark, and that meant trouble.

The defense suffered and the offense once again went stale.

Jackson nailed a big time driving finger roll with just over a minute to go to seal the deal.

Burnett scored three quick buckets to keep the pressure up, but the Irish answered with a home run pass to Zach Auguste to give them breathing room.

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The Hurricanes have plenty of talent on the team to make a run in whatever tourney (very likely NIT) lies ahead.  But if they want to maximize the talent they still have a lot to learn.

Starting the game with a sense of urgency, moving the ball, offensive continuity, and  high percentage rhythm shots are the way to win consistently.

All the things Notre Dame did in the first half.

UM has done it at times this season.   And they showed a lot of heart in coming back from so far down.

But it wasn't enough.

This game was eerily similar to their ACC opener Vs Virginia.   You just can't dig holes that big Vs top 10 caliber teams.

Next Up: The Hurricanes sit back and watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.   Chances are, the NIT beckons.