Just when the Miami Hurricanes were playing their best ACC basketball of the season, their hopes of a NCAA Tournament came crashing down Saturday.
The Canes (18-10, 4-10) had another nine-point lead at home and again they squandered it, this time losing to N.C. State (16-13, 4-10), 71-66. The Canes have lost three of their last four games and continue to struggle in the ACC.
This season, the Hurricanes have blown second half leads to Boston College, Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and now N.C. State.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” head coach Frank Haith said. “We didn’t come out with the type of energy we needed today.”
The Canes are tied at the bottom of the ACC in wins with North Carolina, a team they will face tomorrow, and N.C. State, the team who just outscored the Canes 9-3 in the final 1:10 Saturday.
Chances at a NCAA Tournament berth now come down to Miami having an unbelievable run in the ACC Tournament. The Canes virtually have to win the conference championship to get the automatic bid for the tournament. No team higher than a six seed in the ACC Tournament has ever won the conference championship.
Miami had a chance of attaining a better seed but they were unable to hold on against N.C. State. The Hurricanes’ nine-point lead was evaporated to two points in 71 seconds.
“They hit two big shots and we had three missed block-outs on the free-throw line that really hurt us,” Haith said.
The Canes shot 47 percent from the floor and made six of 19 three-pointers but the Wolf Pack shot 51 percent and hit four of seven three-pointers.
The Wolf Pack was also more assertive than the Hurricanes to get to the charity stripe. N.C. State had 31 free throws; Miami had 16.
“It’s been a mystery all year to me,” Haith said. “We’ve got the best driving team we’ve had in a long time. I think Durand Scott does as good a job [driving] as there is in the league, and we have a post guy like Dwayne Collins.”
Collins led Miami with 15 points and Scott added 13 points in 37 minutes of action.
Miami held a 63-62 lead after Scott knocked down two free throws. Without making a single shot from the floor in the final 1:32, the Wolf Pack won the game from the free throw line. N.C. State made 9 of 10 free throws and the Hurricanes kept missing shots on the other end of the court.
Again Haith pointed out to the free throw disparity.
“I don’t know what we’re not doing to get to the line,” said Haith, whose team didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half.
With the NCAA Tournament shot fading, the Hurricanes will focus on an NIT bid. Miami may need to win one more game to solidify their berth in that tournament.
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at email@example.com.