“Find a way to win.”
That has been Coach Jim Larrañaga’s message to his team all season long.
The Hurricanes, seeded ninth, did just that against the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
Returning to his hometown of Brooklyn, redshirt senior forward Kamari Murphy led Miami with his sixth double-double of the season. He scored a career-high 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in a 62-57 victory to advance to the quarterfinals.
“Today I came in and played in my role,” Murphy said. “Rebounding, staying around the rim, finishing when I can and I made free throws. The guys did a great job of finding me, and I put it all together.”
After leading by eight at halftime, Miami trailed 41-40 with 12:23 remaining in the second period. But after a timeout, freshman guard DJ Vasiljevic hit a three-pointer to spur an 8-0 run and put the Canes in front for good.
The Orange, seeded eighth, were able to trim the lead to as few as two with less than a minute remaining, but clutch free-throws from guards Davon Reed and Bruce Brown clinched the win for the Hurricanes.
“We’ve been in these types of positions all season,” senior co-captain Reed said. “Earlier in the season, lack of experience led to us not being able to pull out some of those closer games. As the season progressed, we’ve been able to [do that], and we showed that same type of resilience today. We stayed poised throughout the stretch.”
Reed, Vasiljevic and junior guard Ja’Quan Newton joined Murphy in double-figures, scoring 14, 13 and 11, respectively.
“The guys did a great job of sharing [the ball]on the perimeter, making some key threes, getting some key stops and rebounding the ball,” Larrañaga said. “So, a great win for us.”
Syracuse guard Andrew White III exploded for 22 points, but Miami contained senior guard John Gillon, who had just eight points.
“My coaching staff and I had basically determined that if John Gillon has a big night, so does Syracuse, and that it was a challenge for Ja’Quan Newton to guard him,” Larrañaga said. “I thought he did an amazing job. I thought it was a good team defense, but it really started with Ja’Quan and how hard he played and how often he kept [Gillon] out of the [paint].”
Miami (21-10, 10-8 ACC) shot 43 percent from the field, hitting nine three-pointers. UM out-rebounded Syracuse (18-14, 10-8 ACC) 31-26 and dished out 13 assists to just eight turnovers at the Barclays Center.
The Hurricanes were without freshman forward Dewan Huell, who suffered an ankle injury in the regular-season finale against the Florida State Seminoles.
Miami advances to play top-seeded North Carolina at noon Thursday.
“A lot of people are picking them to win the National Championship, so we know we’re the underdog,” Larrañaga said. “But we like that we’ve moved on, and we’re in the quarterfinals now.”