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Canes Hoops: Where’s the defense?

Miami has lost their ability to lock down opponents

NCAA Basketball: Miami at Florida State
Dejan Vasiljevic defending Florida State guard Braian Angola on Saturday
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Canes Hoops entered Saturday’s matchup in Tallahassee looking to sweep the Seminoles after winning the first matchup in Coral Gables back on January 7th. The second time around, Miami came out firing, hitting a school record 17 3-pointers, and setting a season-high with 94 points. It was truly a magnificent performance on the offensive end, yet the Canes are left wondering what went wrong. That’s because a team whose calling card was defense, gave up 103 points. In a college game. How does that happen?

If you watched the highlights, you can see the variety of ways the Seminoles scored on the Canes. While the Canes had a historic game shooting from behind the arc, Florida State wasn’t too shabby either, going 9 for 19(47%) from 3. FSU’s 7’4” center Christ Koumadje somehow hung around the rim undetected the whole game, going 6 for 7 from the field including 4 of the easiest alley oops you’ll ever see. All 5 of FSU’s starters scored in double digits. The Noles went to the free throw line 39 TIMES. While you could attribute that to poor officiating, that would be somewhat misleading. I’ve never seen more tick-tack and-1’s in one game. Those plays happen because of a defender being out of position or failing to protect the rim well.

Florida State started the game off on a 10-2 run, so the lack of defense was present from start to finish (one exception was Lonnie Walker IV’s block to end regulation). The Noles went on to make 60% of their shots for the ENTIRE GAME. If one player hit 60% of their shots, you would say that they had a great game, but an entire team? That’s just ludicrous. The Canes were repeatedly beaten off the dribble, or they lost track of their man or missed an assignment. While Miami was outrebounded, they put forth a great effort in every area, except literally playing defense.

NCAA Basketball: Miami at Florida State
The Canes have struggled defending big men recently.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The Canes’ recent performances were trending in this direction. In the 44 games leading up to the Florida State tie, Miami had allowed 72, 83, 81, and 78 points. As a result, a team that had been allowing close to 60 points per game entered Saturday’s matchup already reeling on the defensive end. The constant in those games were big games from opponent’s big men. Clemson’s forward Donte Grantham dropped 18 points, Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. had 15 points and 14 rebounds, NC State’s Omer Yurtseven had 28 points, Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud had 15 points off of the bench, and Florida State was led by forward Phil Cofer’s 21 points in addition to Koumadje’s big game. How will Miami stop this trend? We’ve already seen Coach Larranaga increase Sam Waardenburg’s minutes in recent games, and I’m not sure if Rodney Miller Jr. is ready for ACC action. The coaching staff will have their hands full trying to figure out a way to solve this problem.

The Canes can’t afford to waste historic offensive performances like their 94 point outburst on Saturday night. After going 3-3 in their last 6 games, it’s obvious that Miami can’t rely on their ability to outscore people. The Canes need to figure out how to regain their defensive prominence from the first half of the season in time to string together some victories starting Wednesday against Pittsburgh.