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Canes Hoops: Miami Unable to Close At Pitt, Fall in Final Minutes

A lead in the final three minutes went away in the cold Pittsburgh air, and the Hurricanes were left in defeat once again.

NCAA Basketball: Miami-Florida at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A tough fight fell short for the Miami Hurricanes at the Pittsburgh Panthers on Sunday afternoon, even after rocketing their shorthanded selves into the lead midway through the second half. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be enough for UM to hold off the home team at the Petersen Events Center, as they fell 62-57.

For the third consecutive game, Chris Lykes was held out due to a groin injury. Kameron McGusty was also unavailable due to back spasms, after playing in Tuesday win against Virginia Tech.

The injuries once again tested Miami’s ability to play with limited depth. But in the second half, they switched to a 2-3 zone defense and found themselves in a 53-51 lead with 2 and a half minutes left on the clock. But Xavier Johnson made a 3-pointer for Pitt to give his team a lead they wouldn't again lose, with DJ Vasiljevic’s unsuccessful prayer from the logo in the waiting seconds sealing the Canes’ fate.

The loss snaps a seven-game win streak the Hurricanes (11-10, 4-7) had over Pitt that UM brought into Sunday. Prior to this afternoon, Jim Larrañaga’s program hadn't lost to the Panthers since Feb. 5, 2014.

Miami shot just 38.8% overall and 3-22 on 3-point attempts. They were out rebounded 40-31, including 17-7 on the offensive glass. They also got zero points out of their bench Sunday.

Rodney Miller continued to show why he’s one of the most improved players in the ACC this season, logging a team-high 16 points in his fourth game in double-figures over UM’s last five outings.

Isaiah Wong and Harlond Beverly also continued their valuable contribution, scoring 15 and 11 points respectively. Vasiljevic recorded 10 points while going 0-4 from beyond the arc, in spite of having a team-high nine rebounds.

Sam Waardenburg was the fifth and final Hurricanes to score, with five points.

Au’Diese Toney, Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson scored the bulk of Pittsburgh’s points, with 17, 15 and 13 respectively. Toney’s game-high 10 rebounds earned him a double-double.

The Panthers took a 33-24 lead into the break, outscoring the Canes 18-11 in the final 11 minutes of the first half. UM was just 37% from the field in the opening 20 minutes of the contest and were just 2-10 from beyond the arc, leading to the deficit in spite of winning the rebounding battle 18-14 in the first period.

The Canes turned the game around after the break, going on a 16-6 run over the first eight minutes in the second half, taking their first lead since 4-2 in the opening minutes of the game before the Panthers answered with a 8-2 run of their own for the next two minutes.

But rebounding may have did in Miami in the final 20 minutes, as an advantage turned into a 26-13 deficit. In a half otherwise controlled by the Canes in many facets, second chance points were able to leap the Panthers over the hump late.

The Canes return home to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the Watsco Center, with tipoff slated for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. UM will try and avenge an 80-63 loss back on Jan. 15 in Raleigh. The game will be shown on ACC Network.