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Miami wilts again in finding consistent offense, loses third in five conference games

Coach Jim Larrañaga and the Canes were unable to find the necessary answers in attacking Syracuse’s legendary zone defense up north on Tuesday night.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Syracuse
Hurricanes guard Harlond Beverly attempts a layup under the rim while guarded by Syracuse forward Marek Dolezaj during the second half at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 19, 2021 (Syracuse, N.Y.).
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Spirits around the Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball program were lifted to some degree after an upset win over the No. 16 Louisville Cardinals on Saturday night at the Watsco Center. Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong led the Canes yet again with 30 points, seven rebounds, and six assists, and the team picked up a win after two walloping losses at the hands of the Cardinals last season. Tuesday night was the time for that excitement to carry over for the injury-plagued Hurricanes.

The Syracuse Orange, however, got in the way of letting Miami build momentum as guards Joe Girard III and Buddy Boeheim each scored 23 points, forward Quincy Guerrier logged 18, and Syracuse (8-4, 2-3 ACC) smothered Miami (6-7, 2-6 ACC) on Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome (Syracuse, N.Y.), 83-57.

Miami struggled mightily to convert from the 3-point arc yet again, shooting only 4-of-25 against Syracuse’s stifling zone defense. The Canes sparked an 11-2 early lead in the first half behind sophomore forward Anthony Walker’s 11 points, but were unable to maintain any offensive consistency, as the Orange eventually sunk five triples before halftime.

“Syracuse was very sharp offensively,” Miami head coach Larrañaga said. “The ability to just score the ball, even when our defense was on them. We defended them pretty well in the first five minutes but after that, they went on a 27-5 run, and that kind of deflated us completely. Our defense then broke down and we just couldn’t make shots against the zone.”

Syracuse, on the other hand, was able to capitalize off of Miami’s 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, scoring 27 points off of those mistakes to lead 36-22 at the intermission. The rebounding margin remained almost even, with Syracuse grabbing 34 rebounds to UM’s 33.

“We made shots, I think we’re a better shooting team than this,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We were 10-for-25 from the three which certainly is good, but I think we can make more of those shots. We just gotta keep moving the ball and getting those shots.”

The Orange were far from finished despite holding a double-digit advantage over their visitors from Coral Gables, as they opened the second half on a 5-0 scoring run. Boeheim scored 13 points after the first seven minutes of the second frame, Guerrier notched six, and Girard added five. Wong would finally start hitting shots, scoring 16 points after misfiring on his first six shot attempts, but it would be too little of an effort at that point.

“The zone [defense] is designed to deflect and steal passes,” Larrañaga said. “What you have to do is really move the ball and really attack the gaps. We did a little bit of that in the second half for about a five- or seven-minute period, but in order to do that you have to have 3-point shooting, so that when you penetrate, you can kick it to a 3-point shooter. It’s just a very hard matchup for us.”

Miami, unable to develop a winning streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will return home to play a similarly struggling Notre Dame (4-8, 1-5 ACC) program. Tip off between Canes and the Fighting Irish will start at 6 p.m. on the ACC Network.