The Miami Hurricanes put up a fight in the first half of the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee on Saturday afternoon, going into the locker room down just a single possession at the half, led by a pair of tenacious young guys with an array of experience once again largely absent.
But Jim Larrañaga’s team once again learned that basketball is a game of two haves, when the Florida State Seminoles outscored UM 49-34 in the second half to defeat the Canes 99-81.
Miami (11-12, 3-10 ACC) falls to below .500 for the first time since the opening night loss to Louisville. Now only a win by Syracuse over Wake Forest Saturday night can keep UM out of sole possession of last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The loss is Miami’s fifth straight at the hands of their in-state rival, having last logged a win in the series on Jan. 7 in the 2017-18 season. In Saturday's loss, Florida State nearly doubled the Canes in total rebounds (46-24) and make 13 3-pointers, while scoring an eye-popping 54 points off the bench.
On the injury front, the good news is that Chris Lykes (groin) and Kameron McGusty (back spasms) returned to action, albeit off the bench and in limited stretches.
But Rodney Miller (foot) didn't travel and was unavailable, leaving the Canes vulnerable in the post. Going into last Wednesday’s game, the big man had proven to be one of the most improved players in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 12.2 point per game since Jan. 15.
If there has been any silver lining that has come out of this seemingly endless injury bug, it has been the development that Miami’s freshmen have made in the face of a sudden, increased responsibility.
New Jersey native Isaiah Wong set a career-high in points after just over two minutes had passed in the second half. He finished with 23, which was also a game-high and good for his fifth consecutive game with at least 10 points. Fellow first-year player Harlond Beverly—just a game removed from a 20-point career-high night of his own—also shined Saturday, scoring 14 for his forth straight matchup with 10 or more.
The problem that UM ran into on Saturday was that it became difficult to hang around while remaining reliant on a pair of rookies. Without a full strength Lykes, McGusty or Miller—three of the Canes’ more experienced scorers—the Seminoles’ depth began to run their course in the closing 20 minutes. Yes, DJ Vasiljevic added 12 points and Sam Waardenburg tied a season-high with 15 points, but Miami needed their other stars in a big way.
The Canes jumped out to a 10-2 lead less than three minutes after the tip. But just like Wednesday’s loss to NC State, Miami saw their lead disappear over the rest of the half. On the flip side, UM remained very much alive heading into the locker room, being down just 50-47 at halftime.
Part of the reason that the Hurricanes remained within three at the point was their ability to shoot the basketball in the first half, making over 51% of their field goal attempts and going 4-10 from 3-point territory in the opening period.
Those figures dropped to 30.3% and 4-14 in the third of an hour after the break, all while FSU continued to put player after player in the box score. Five ‘Noles were in double-figures when the final horn sounded, led by M.J. Walker and Patrick Williams, each with 14 points. Devin Vassell, Wyatt Wilkes and Trent Forrest added 13, 11 and 10 points respectively.
In all, an astounding 13 of Leonard Hamilton’s players scored Saturday, while a majority of their points came from players outside of the starting five. Such depth is simply nearly impossible for a team as shorthanded as Miami to keep up with.
UM will hope to get healthier and return to Coral Gables for a two-game homestand, being in action next on Wednesday night against Boston College, and then remaining home for a Saturday matinee against Wake Forest at the Watsco Center.