Under the guidance of senior guard Jack McClinton, the Miami Hurricanes are finally back in the win column after defeating sixth-ranked Wake Forest, 79-52.
The Canes (15-7, 4-5) ended their three-game skid, which included two overtimes losses, and rejuvenated their quest to return to the NCAA tournament.
“No question, we brought it tonight,” head coach Frank Haith said. “It was a great win for us. We lost three in a row. We needed a win.”
Miami held the Demon Deacons (17-3, 4-3) to a season-low 52 points and led by as many as 27 points. During Haith’s five seasons at the helm, the Hurricanes have defeated eight ranked opponents at home.
“We caught them on a wrong night,” Haith said. “We rebounded the ball and played defense. I thought our effort was tremendous.”
McClinton finished with a season-high 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting and made six 3-pointers.
He passed Guillermo Diaz (2003-06) and Johnny Hemsley (1996-00) to move into ninth place on UM’s all-time scoring list. He also notched his sixth career 30-point game.
“I wanted to do anything I could,” McClinton said. “I think this was one of best 40-minute games of the year. It was one of our most complete games. Today it showed.”
Even Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio called McClinton’s performance one of the best he has seen in years.
“I think McClinton had one of the best games in years,” Gaudio said. “One of the best performances in the eight years I have been in the ACC.”
After leading 29-26 going into halftime, the Hurricanes opened the final 20 minutes on a 26-8 run. Redshirt junior forward Adrian Thomas hit a 3-pointer to give Miami a 20-point cushion at 54-34, before McClinton gave the Canes their biggest lead of the game after scoring 14 straight points to boost the lead to 76-50.
“Jack was great. We needed that from him,” Haith said. “We made some shots. Our defense was a key. We did a great job.”
Out of the gate, the Hurricanes started slow. With 16:02 left in the first half, Thomas hit a 3-pointer to give the team its first points.
Thomas tied a career-high with 14 points, but most of his damage came in the first half with 11 points.
“It felt pretty good,” Thomas said. “I have just kept practicing and it’s showing.”
Haith talked Tuesday about how this year’s team has been lacking a player who comes off the bench to spark play and the team’s inability to block shots. Coming into the game, the Canes were last in the ACC with 4.0 blocks a game. The Canes finished with nine blocks, four coming from senior forward Jimmy Graham, and 25 points off the bench.
“Our bench was productive,” Haith said. “We played with intensity.”
Miami travels to Durham, N.C. to take on third-ranked Duke (19-3, 6-2) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.