The Miami Hurricanes traveled to South Bend, Indiana on a three-game losing streak Monday night to face a Notre Dame team with injuries and fears of missing the NCAA tournament themselves.
In the end, Miami gutted out a 77-74 win in a crucial game for their March Madness hopes and improving their ACC record to 8-7.
Coach Jim Larranaga inserted a new starting lineup to ignite the Canes’ coming off the previously mentioned three-game losing streak. The new, bigger, lineup consisted of: Ja’Quan Newton, Lonnie Walker, Anthony Lawrence, Ebuka Inzundu, and Dewan Huell. On ESPN’s broadcast, it was mentioned that this lineup played ZERO minutes together this season.
The gamble by Larranaga paid off as the older and bigger lineup kept their poise down the stretch in a tight game that saw Miami lose a 10-point lead turn into a five-point deficit, before pulling away by five points for most of the final minute.
In the first half, Miami jumped out to a 16-8 lead led by Walker’s shooting, before the Canes would go into an offensive funk that fans are becoming accustomed to seeing. The Canes went six-plus minutes without a field goal, and coughed up the lead 18-16 to the Fighting Irish around the 10 minute mark in the first half.
Chris Lykes and Huell sparked the Canes in transition towards the end of the half leading to a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Walker to end the half on a 18-9 run and lead 38-29 at the break.
Notre Dame, without senior forward Bonzie Colson and junior guard Rex Pflueger, found themselves down 10 points in the early second-half, but would take a five-point lead around the eight-minute mark thanks to senior guard Matt Farrell catching fire and senior forward Martinas Geben owning the paint.
Farrell would end with 16 points, six assists, and six rebounds, while Geben finished with 19 points (7-11 from the field) and seven rebounds.
The senior duo wasn’t enough to keep up with the Canes down the stretch as Inzundu was near perfect in the paint and Walker knocked down contested shot after contested shot, sparking a 13-0 run lasting until 2:34 left in the game.
Inzundu was 7-8 from the field, scoring 14 points, snatching eight rebounds, and swatting two shots. Due to his success, Huell found himself sitting on the bench down the stretch.
Meanwhile, on the perimeter, Notre Dame didn’t have an answer for Walker who shot 7-14 from the field and 5-7 from distance to score 19 points. NBA scouts had to be drooling at the mouth with the way his catch-and-shoot and contested jumpers looked tonight.
A final second heave went long after a Lykes missed free throw on a one-and-one attempt to secure a 77-74 road win for the Canes.
Miami entered Monday night as an eight seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection and should stay around the same seeding with the win. Miami will look to build their momentum and get some revenge as they host Boston College Saturday at the Watsco Center.