With an 80-67 loss to rival Florida State Wednesday night in Tallahassee, the path just got darker for Miami’s chances to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Hurricanes (15-10, 4-8) couldn’t overcome a poor display at the free throw line, missing 10 shots, while the Seminoles (20-6, 7-4) made an astonishing 31 of 35. Senior guard Jack McClinton was held in check to a quiet 13 points.
Miami is now on the outside looking in.
“We had opportunities,” head coach Frank Haith said. “When you miss free throws, it’s like a turnover. We kept fouling them and they made them. They did a great job. We had opportunities. It didn’t go our way.”
After a 3-pointer by junior forward Adrian Thomas cut the Seminole lead to four at 67-63, FSU finished on a 13-4 run, led by senior guard Toney Douglas, who scored six points down the stretch. Douglas notched a game-high 24 points and made 14 of 15 from the charity stripe.
“We cut their lead to four,” Haith said. “I think we just gave out and we sent them to the free throw line. Thirty-five is the most free throws we have allowed all season.”
Junior guard James Dews scored 19 points and made three 3-pointers in his return to the starting lineup.
McClinton, who had scored more than 30 points the last three games, shot an unprecedented 5-of-12 from the floor. He was either double or triple-teamed the entire game and took just four shots from behind the arc.
“They played hard on Jack,” Haith said. “They face guarded him like other teams do. They did a nice job.”
In his return to the court after missing the North Carolina game with a high-ankle sprain, junior forward Dwayne Collins failed to make a significant impact. Collins started strong but was held to one point in the second half and eight overall.
The Hurricanes took a 31-30 lead into the half after Dews hit a deep 2-pointer, but Miami struggled in the last 20 minutes. Florida State scored 50 points in the second half, led by as many as 13 and outscored the reeling Canes by 14 points. The Canes shot just 39 percent from the field.
“They were moving faster than us,” Haith said. “They were moving quicker than us. They took control of that.”
Now the question becomes whether the Hurricanes can overcome three straight tough Atlantic Coast Conference losses and make a run heading into the ACC Tournament. It may take winning out their four remaining regular season games, a stretch which begins at noon Saturday against Boston College (19-8, 7-5), as well as at least two games in the tourney.
Once again, their backs are against the wall.
“We’ve got to win. Simple as that,” Haith said. “We have to find a way to win. If it takes us to play six or seven guys, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to win.”