The men’s basketball team finished the regular season the way it hoped to, and gained some much-needed momentum heading into the ACC Tournament with a 77-56 win over Boston College on Saturday.
With the win, Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC) finishes the regular season with a winning record in conference play for the first time since joining the ACC in 2004. The team will be seeded sixth in the conference tournament.
“A loss today would’ve been devastating to our guys, to me, to everybody,” Hurricane coach Jim Larranaga said. “It’s your last home game of the year, we lost on Wednesday [at N.C. State], so it’s nice to bounce back.”
Kenny Kadji and Durand Scott led the team over the Eagles (9-21, 4-12 ACC) with 14 points apiece. Scott scored his 14 on an efficient seven field goal attempts.
The Hurricanes connected on 12 of their 30 3-point field goal attempts. The surge from distance was led by Malcolm Grant, who shot 4-of-8 from beyond the arc for 12 points.
“This has been the craziest year I’ve ever been a part of as far as everything I’ve had to go through,” said Grant, whose 36-year-old brother passed away earlier this season. “And then my shot being in a crazy slump the whole year. Everybody stayed positive with me and told me, ‘It can’t stay like this for long,’ and it’s finally getting back to the way it was.”
Grant has now made at least 40 percent of his 3-pointers over his last four games after struggling with his shot in games prior. He’s now reached double figures two straight games after failing to reach that mark the previous seven.
Grant had his parents make the trip to Coral Gables and watch him play for the first time since he joined the Hurricanes. He said he cried a bit during pre-game introductions when his name was announced.
Scott sent the Hurricanes into halftime up 46-25 with a halfcourt heave at the buzzer. Miami finished the half on a 26-7 run and never looked back.
“I told them at halftime that we played terrific at both ends of the court, shared the ball, had 10 assists,” Larranaga said.
The Hurricanes made six 3-pointers during that run and converted 9-of-17 from distance in the first half. In comparison, the team only took 11 field goal attempts inside the 3-point line to that point.
Miami and Boston College combined to shoot 59 3-point field goals on the day.
The Canes’ seniors were honored at the final home game of their collegiate career.All three seniors – Grant, DeQuan Jones and Ryan Quigtar – were in the starting lineup Saturday as is tradition under Larranaga-coached teams.
“The coaching staff, and as a team, we all put a huge emphasis on just going out and having fun,” said Jones, who finished with nine points, five rebounds and two blocks.
Quigtar, the walk-on 5-foot-11 point guard who had only played 23 minutes in his collegiate career before Saturday, registered a career-high eight minutes with one rebound, one assist and one point that came on the second of two free-throw attempts with 15.6 seconds remaining. The BankUnited Center crowd erupted when he made the foul shot.
“Second free throw – yeah, I was a little nervous,” Quigtar said. “The first one, I thought it was good and bounced out.”
Despite the victory, Miami will finish behind N.C. State and Virginia in the conference standings. The Wolfpack defeated Virginia Tech on Sunday, and Virginia won at Maryland.
The Canes will play Georgia Tech in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday night. With a win in that game, Miami would face Florida State in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“Every player on our team knows how important the ACC Tournament is,” Larranaga said. “They’re all excited about that. They get a day off to rest [Sunday] and enjoy today’s victory, but on Monday it’s back to business.”
The winner of the conference tournament will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Miami could receive an at-large bid if the teams makes a solid run in the ACC Tournament.
Asked what the team needs to do to reach the Big Dance, Larranaga simply said they have to win the conference tournament. That way, they would not leave their fate in anyone else’s hands. No team has ever won the ACC tournament when having to play four games in four days.