Competing against conference opponents with barely a handful of healthy scholarship players has been anything but a small task for the undermanned Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball team this season.
The team has come out triumphant at times yet defeated at others, as exhibited in the team’s multi-game losing streak.
Senior guards Kameron McGusty scored 14 points, Elijah Olaniyi added 12 points and six rebounds, though Miami (7-16, 3-15 ACC) was unable to stop Virginia (16-6, 12-4 ACC), losing 62-51, while the Cavaliers ended a three-game skid on Monday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
Shooting 48 percent from the field in the first half, the Canes saw that figure dip to 29.6 percent after halftime. The Cavs scored 13 points off of Miami’s 11 turnovers.
“Well, we played 35 good minutes,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “The last four or five mintues of the first half just killed us. [We] turned the ball over, that gave them some easy baskets and that was the difference in the game. We had plenty of opportunities, especially to start the second half. we had some plays that we could have easily made shots and instead they were turnovers. We had three turnovers to start the second half, just like we had three turnovers to end the first half, and all of those should’ve been baskets and maybe even given us the lead.”
Miami kept Virginia’s shooting numbers to 4-of-14 out of the starting gates, though that did not stop its opponent from igniting a 12-0 run prior to halftime. Marquette transfer forward Sam Hauser converted on two consecutive 3-point field goals, finishing with a game-high 18 points.
“I thought we got some really good looks in the second half, especially early and [we] just didn’t kind of capitalize on them,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “But because our guys were working hard, we got some stops, and your defense has to hold you in there. Your offense can kind of come and go, but it was more about getting quality looks, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Struggling to find open shots in the final seven minutes, the Canes become more reliant on contested looks as the ball movement, unlike what was witnessed in the game’s first 16 minutes, slowed.
“What we’ve been trying to do better, and I think we have, is move the basketball and share the ball, and find open men,” Larrañaga said. “The question is can that guy make the shot then. we have a lot of guys, Isaiah Wong likes to shoot off the bounce, Kam McGusty does, Elijah Olaniyi likes to shoot off the dribble. So, we don’t have a lot of catch-and-shoot guys.
Virginia, a defensive-minded team that remains 4-0 when limiting opponents to fewer than 50 points, prevented Miami’s leading scorer in sophomore guard Isaiah Wong from producing. The league’s arguably most improved player only registered five points in the second half.
“The energy around the team has been very positive,” said Larrañaga on the team’s approach to finishing the season with a degree of merit. “I felt good after the Clemson game, the way how hard we played. We don’t have many bodies, so those five starters have to play a ton of minutes, we try to call timeouts to give them some rest. The TV timeouts helped, but we need guys to be able to finish the half and the game, and it’s been challenging.”
Closing the second half on a 7-0 scoring burst, the Cavaliers widened an eight-point deficit to 13. Hauser drained a 3-point basket as 90 seconds ticked down and Miami’s full-court pressure remained to no avail.
“We don’t make many threes and we don’t make as many shots, and our opponent makes more threes than we do,” Larrañaga said.
Returning home to Coral Gables, Florida for its final regular-season home game, Miami seeks redemption over a Boston College team, which smothered the Canes in early January, on Friday.
The two teams will tip off at 6 p.m. from the Watsco Center, as the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.