When Miami and Georgia Tech squared off at the Convocation Center this Saturday, it was clear both teams were playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. Unfortunately for Hurricane fans, it appears the Yellow Jackets, not the ‘Canes, will be dancing in mid-March.
Jarrett Jack had 21 points, including eight straight with his team trailing 59-51 in the second half, to lead Georgia Tech (16-9, 7-7) to a pivotal 76-72 victory.
The loss leaves the Hurricanes (16-10, 7-8) likely needing a win over Duke on Thursday and a run in the ACC Tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
Guillermo Diaz had 24 points, making his latest case for first team All-ACC honors, and Robert Hite added 20 in the loss. The ‘Canes were out rebounded 42-33 in a grueling game.
“They shoot 40 percent for the game and we only get 16 defensive rebounds; there’s a lot of misses we didn’t get,” said Miami Head Coach Frank Haith. “To win a high level game like that, you have to do a good job on the glass. They were a very physical team.”
The ‘Canes seemed like the hungrier squad early in the first half, opening up a 20-10 lead after an Anthony Harris three-point play. Georgia Tech countered with a 14-3 run highlighted by four Anthony Morrow three-pointers to take a 24-23 lead. The Hurricanes seemingly had the momentum at halftime after a Diaz tip-in gave Miami a two-point lead at the break.
Every time the ‘Canes jumped out to a sizeable advantage in the second half, the Yellow Jackets answered. A Frisby free throw gave Miami a 59-51 lead with 12:11 remaining, but Jack converted a runner, three-point shot and three-point play to spearhead a 12-0 Georgia Tech run. Miami battled back to tie the score at 63, but Diaz fouled Will Bynum with two seconds on the shot clock while shooting a three-pointer, and the senior guard nailed all three foul shots.
“When the clock is going down, you need to let that go,” Diaz said. “They called the foul, and he made the shots.”
Jack preserved the victory for the Yellow Jackets by making two free throws with eight seconds left to extend the lead to four points at 76-72.
Haith said the effort was there for the Hurricanes but the game merely got away from them in the final minutes.
“I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Haith said. “They fought; they played as hard as they could play. We just didn’t finish it.”
The Hurricanes return to action Thursday for their final regular season contest against No. 7 Duke in Durham, N.C.
Eric Kalis can be contacted at email@example.com.