With its NCAA Tournament chances on life support, Miami desperately needed a win at Florida State Tuesday.
Mission accomplished-in convincing fashion.
The Hurricanes held the Seminoles to 28 percent shooting, 16.6 percent from three-point range, as they left the Leon County Civic Center with a 65-49 victory. The win improves Miami to 16-9 overall, 7-7 in the ACC, and keeps its tournament hopes alive.
UM had lost its last 15 games in Tallahassee.
Florida State fell to 11-16 (3-10) and is now tied for last place in the ACC with Clemson. The ‘Noles have lost seven straight games.
Guillermo Diaz led the Hurricanes with an efficient 19 points, hitting seven of 13 field goals and seven rebounds. Robert Hite, who was mired in a two-game slump, had 17 points and eight boards. Will Frisby added 11 points and six rebounds.
The ‘Canes shot 45.7 percent from the field and made half of their three-point attempts. They were able to control the battle of the boards, out rebounding the Seminoles 40-33.
Miami can thank Florida State Head Coach Leonard Hamilton for benching his top two scorers, Von Wafer and Al Thortnon, for the first 16 minutes of the game for unspecified rules violations. Their absences allowed the Hurricanes to build a substantial 28-16 first half lead they never relinquished. FSU’s starters combined to score only 13 points.
UM Head Coach Frank Haith told the Miami Herald the victory was absolutely vital after the Hurricanes lost to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
“This win was huge for us,” Haith said. “At this time of year, they have all those conversations about who’s on the bubble, who’s not. I think, hopefully, this gets us back in the conversation.”
Diaz’s performance left Hamilton impressed. The former UM coach told the Miami Herald the sophomore guard deserves strong consideration for ACC Player of the Year honors.
“He is such an electrifying player,” he said. “I’d say he’s one of the top two players in the ACC. He is so focused, no-nonsense. He plays with a passion you like to see. He plays like every possession is important. As long as he’s on the floor and the game’s close, he gives his team a chance.”
A win at home over Georgia Tech or on the road against Duke March 3 would give the Hurricanes an 8-8 record in their first ACC season. Only three of the 59 teams that finished .500 or better in the conference since 1992 missed the NCAA Tournament.
The Hurricanes’ critical showdown with Georgia Tech will tip-off at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.