Offering a depleted rotation of only six players, Miami was flat-out dominated by Georgia Tech on Saturday afternoon as the Hurricanes have not seen a win in the Atlantic Coast Conference since its close win over Duke almost three weeks ago.
Miami guards Chris Lykes (ankle) and Harlond Beverly (back) remain sidelined for likely until the end of the regular season, while leading scorer Isaiah Wong headed to the locker room with an ankle injury and did not return in the second half. The Piscataway, N.J., native has averaged over 17 points on the year.
Senior guard Elijah Olaniyi, a Stony Brook transfer, scored 18 points and logged seven rebounds, sophomore forward Anthony Walker added 16, though Georgia Tech (11-8, 7-6 ACC) overwhelmed Miami (7-13, 3-12 ACC) 87-60 on 57 percent shooting at the Watsco Center.
Georgia Tech jumped ahead to a 12-0 lead off of back-to-back threes from guard Michael Devoe, the ACC’s fifth-leading scorer, with not even two minutes off the clock. Guard Jose Alvarado, who totaled 12 points in the team’s win over Pittsburgh last Sunday, also scored two-straight layups to push the Yellow Jackets in front early. Georgia Tech won the rebounding battle 35-26.
“Obviously Georgia Tech was really, really good right from the very start,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We knew their change of defenses was going to bother us. We really don’t have a point guard right now without Chris Lykes, without Harlond Beverly. So, we had to make some changes and put Isaiah at the point which is certainly not his natural position. He can play that at times, and we have gone to him in that position but not to start the game and not against the changing defenses.”
Georgia Tech’s stifling defense forced Miami to commit five quick turnovers out of the gates. Tacking on 15 points off of the Canes’ errors, the Yellow Jackets expanded their lead to 19 after eight minutes.
“Lack of focus,” redshirt junior forward Deng Gak said. “I think we had eight turnovers in the first eight minutes, but the coaches emphasized that they like to reach and get a lot of steals.”
Coming close to its season-low for a first-half total, Miami only recorded 18 points having shot barely 28 percent before the intermission. Walker paced the Canes with five points while Wong posted just four, despite remaining a candidate for the ACC’s Most Improved Player honor.
“It’s not easy,” said Gak on not being able to keep the game close, let alone win. “Credit to Georgia Tech, they came out more ready than we were today. But the locker room is the same as it’s always been, we’re going to keep competing. We got competitors on this team, we just came out very lackadaisical and Georgia Tech threw a knockout punch in the first half.”
The Canes trailed by 30 points by the time both teams resumed play, as the story remained almost identical for Larrañaga’s team. Devoe scored the Yellow Jackets’ first five points, though senior center Nysier Brooks eventually broke through and scored six of eight Miami points in the first few minutes.
“Anytime where the team doesn’t win, my performance doesn’t really matter to me to be honest,” said Brooks, who totaled 12 points on the afternoon.
Miami, however, had planned for additional reliance on Brooks over the course of the decision loss.
“Our goal before the game was to post-feed to Nysier Brooks a lot because their defense is spread out and we wanted to give Nas a chance to score or hit some cutters,” Larrañaga said. “I think he did that in the second half, we just didn’t get him the ball in the first half.”
The Canes, regardless of the deficit, maintained better control of the ball in the second frame, committing three turnovers as opposed to 12 in the first 20 minutes. Olaniyi scored 14 points down the stretch and Walker chipped in 11 while Miami developed a 7-0 burst by the five-and-a-half-minute indicator.
Retaliating was Devoe, who finished with a game-high seven 3-point field goals on 11 tries, while Miami made five on the day.
“First of all, obviously everybody’s discouraged,” Larrañaga said. “It’s not like you can keep them from being discouraged when you’re down 30 at the half. It’s very hard when you don’t have the right pieces in the right places. So, right now there’s really nothing we can do. What I told them after the game was we did a much better job of not turning the ball over in the second half, which allowed us to get some of the baskets that we’d planned on getting.”
Looking for any sort of hope prior to the ACC Tournament, the Canes will face No. 16 Florida State (12-3, 8-2 ACC), which defeated their in-state archrivals in the teams’ recent meeting in Tallahassee, Florida. Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team could be a Final Four contender in the NCAA Tournament.
“We got FSU on Wednesday, we’re just trying to refocus and come out with another strategy, and win the next game,” Brooks said.
The Canes and Noles will tip off at 8:30 p.m. from the Watsco Center. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.