Miami knew it needed a near-flawless effort to upset No. 5 Wake Forest. Yet, this game had its share of costly mistakes, and the ‘Canes fell short.
The ‘Canes were held to 33 percent shooting in the second half and connected on only 17 percent of their three-point shots as the Demon Deacons (22-3, 10-2) won their sixth consecutive game 68-63 Tuesday at the Convocation Center.
Miami (15-8, 6-6) had a chance to tie at the end of the game, but Anthony Harris’ three-pointer fell short with four seconds left and Justin Gray clinched the victory with two free throws.
UM did a formidable job against Wake’s superstars, holding Chris Paul and Eric Williams to 13 points apiece, but all nine active Demon Deacons scored at least four points. Scoring balance combined with tenacious defense ultimately did in the ‘Canes.
Guillermo Diaz led Miami with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, but the only other Hurricane in double figures was Harris with 14. Robert Hite, second on the team in scoring, was held to six points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Miami Head Coach Frank Haith said he was surprised by the defensive performance of Wake Forest, a team known for offensive brilliance.
“To win a high-level game like that you have to take care of all the little things.”
– Frank Haith,
“They’re a better defensive team than people give them credit for,” Haith said. “They do a really nice job. The other thing they did is block out. We didn’t get many offensive rebounds. We only had six second chance points.”
During the game, whenever Wake Forest went on a run, the ‘Canes would rally to get within striking distance. A Jamaal Levy layup with 3:30 left gave Wake Forest a 63-55 advantage, equaling its largest lead of the game. Miami responded with a pair of Will Frisby free throws, a steal and dunk by Hite and two Diaz foul shots to close within two points with 1:31 remaining.
Wake Forest relied on its leader, Paul, to stop the bleeding with a layup with 1:03 left. Diaz responded quickly with a layup to make it a 65-63 game with 53 seconds to play. It appeared Miami would have a chance to tie after Paul missed a jumper, but Williams came down with the rebound and was fouled, hitting one of two attempts.
Haith said Williams’ rebound was an example of the fact that Wake Forest did anything necessary to beat the Hurricanes.
“The thing I told our kids is that to win a high-level game like that you have to take care of all the little things,” he said. “When Chris Paul misses that shot, we’ve got to come down with that rebound.”
The loss puts Miami squarely on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament bid and its next two games are on the road against Virginia Tech and Florida State. Haith said he did not expect his team to be overly disappointed with this defeat.
“Let’s look at the big picture,” he said. “We play every game to win. We did that tonight. We must recover and go after this thing Saturday at Virginia Tech. There’s still something out there for this ball club.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at email@example.com.