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22 January 2012

Poor shooting dooms Canes as late rally comes up short

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Reggie Johnson, junior, tries for a basket. Zach Beeker//The Miami Hurricane

Looking to gain momentum with a second straight conference win, Miami (10-7, 1-3 ACC) fell to NC State (15-5, 1-3 ACC) 78-73 Sunday at the BankUnited Center.

Down by as many as 16 late in the first half, Miami made an inspired run to cut the deficit to four in the last two minutes, but couldn’t get the buckets it needed at the end. On one possession both Kenny Kadji and Shane Larkin missed open looks from beyond the arc. Either shot would’ve made it a one-point game.

The two consecutive 3’s that didn’t connect were a microcosm of the game as a whole. So often a key to the offense, the Canes were an abysmal 2-of-20 Sunday from long distance.

“It was just a tough day shooting the ball offensively,” DeQuan Jones said. “So we just have to get in the gym and get better.”

Miami played most of the stretch run without Reggie Johnson or Malcolm Grant on the floor. Coach Jim Larranaga attributes his lineup decisions to the energy and aggressiveness he saw from his bench.

“They really did exhaust themselves and played very hard in the last eight minutes, made a significant difference,” Larranaga said.

For the first half Miami went back to the same brand of basketball it was playing in its two previous ACC losses. The offense was never in rhythm.

At the intermission Miami was shooting 28 percent from the field, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc, and registered just one assist and nine turnovers to contribute to a 39-27 deficit.

“We just came out as a team just lethargic, not being aggressive, not attacking the basket, not putting pressure on the defense,” Jones said.

Though they ended the day with 10 assists, Miami only registered one in the entire first half. The team ball movement was a far cry from Wednesday night’s, with the 19 assists the team had in its lone conference victory against Clemson.

“On offense we’ve been emphasizing sharing the ball, and at halftime we had one assist,” Larranaga said. “So we didn’t really execute what we wanted to do.”

N.C. State, which has five players averaging double figures, utilized that balanced offensive attack to perfection.

Scott Wood led the Wolfpack with 21 points. He answered every Hurricane run with demoralizing 3’s that continuously squelched Miami’s comeback efforts.

“He has a great tempo about his game, he doesn’t get flustered if he doesn’t get the ball for a while, and he’s always a threat,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said.

Wood, who has now connected on 58 straight free throws, broke J.J. Redick’s ACC record for consecutive free throws made.

The Canes have minimal time to reflect on the loss, as they hit the road to Atlanta this afternoon for a Tuesday night meeting at Georgia Tech.