Miami moved to 5-0 on the season with a nerve-wracking victory over Fresno St in the semis of the Wooden Legacy tournament on Friday afternoon. The back-and-forth affair proved to be a showcase for graduate transfer guard Zach Johnson, who helped the Canes overcome foul-trouble and a lack of depth on a day where the Bulldogs gave Miami their best shot.
Fresno St came out dictating the pace and physicality of the game, pressing the Canes the length of the floor which resulted in some costly turnovers that put Miami in the hole early. The Canes would keep pace with a series of runs sparked by Zach Johnson’s 15 first-half points, however the Bulldogs went into the break ahead by 4, 41-37. Miami was fortunate to have kept it that close, as Fresno St dominated on the boards and managed to put nearly all of Miami’s bigs in foul trouble. Ebuka Izundu, Anthony Lawrence II, and Sam Waardenburg all had their minutes limited after picking up quick fouls.
While Zach Johnson continued to attack the basket at will in the second half (he finished with 24 points), much of the Canes supporting cast came alive hoping to push Miami to victory. Ebuka Izundu went 3 for 3 from the field and made 4 of 5 free throws in the second half to put up 10 points after going scoreless in the first half. Chris Lykes (17 points) and Dejan Vasiljevic (12 points) continued to push the Canes offense, however they could not shake Fresno St as guards Braxton Higgins and Deshon Taylor hit bucket after bucket, scoring 28 and 25 points respectively.
Miami appeared to pull away just in time, as Chris Lykes made two free throws to put the Canes up 76-73 with 18 seconds left, however Zach Johnson committed a cringeworthy foul as Deshon Taylor attempted a 3-pointer on the Bulldogs ensuing trip down the floor. Taylor would knock down all 3 free throws to tie the game at 76. Lykes would hold for the last shot, but when his jumper bounced off the front rim, Johnson proved to be the day’s hero as he elevated for the tip slam to put the Canes up 78-76 with .6 seconds left. Fresno St turned the ball over on their last chance inbound and Miami advanced to the finals.
The Canes will play the winner of the other semi between Seton Hall and Hawaii on Sunday evening at 10:30pm ET.