Miami’s thrilling season ended in disappointing fashion on Thursday as Marquette breezed past the suddenly flat Canes, 71-61.
“We didn’t have the juice you need to play great basketball,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “It started from the beginning and never really improved.”
Miami struggled mightily from the field and did not play with enough energy to make a run for the Elite Eight.
The Canes began the game 1-for-13 from 3-point range, and finished the contest 8-for-26, a 31 percent clip.
Still, most of those came late in the game with the victory already out of reach.
The Golden Eagles, contrarily, were full of hot shooting hands, led by junior Jamil Wilson (game-high 16 points).
Marquette stretched its lead to as much as 21 points, forcing Larranaga to use a full-court press early in the second half.
“We’re not a pressing team, so to start pressing with 16 minutes left was out of character. We tried to get something going, but we couldn’t,” he said.
Marquette brought double teams off every high screen for Shane Larkin.
The star sophomore, named ACC Tournament MVP just two weeks ago, said he expected this type of defensive scheme, but had trouble executing against the Golden Eagles.
“Illinois did the same thing on ball screens, but that night Rion [Brown] had the hot hand,” Larkin said. “Nobody had that tonight. It was frustrating.”
A key question heading in was how Miami would adjust without Reggie Johnson, whose size is crucial beneath the basket.
It seemed especially important in a battle against a Marquette team that has a reputation for crashing the boards with all five players.
“Just missing his body, just his size would have been able to affect their shot and their game plan,” Miami senior Julian Gamble said. “But at this point there’s no excuses. You have to find a way to get things done.”
Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen loss ends arguably the most memorable and special season in Miami basketball history.
High preseason expectations gave way to a disappointing start, with losses to Florida Gulf Coast and St. Leo (Division II).
But after Christmas Day, the Canes embarked on their dominant 14-game winning streak, stealing the nation’s attention with blowout wins over Duke and North Carolina.
Seniors Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble, Trey McKinney Jones and Reggie Johnson led Miami to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2000, and achieved many firsts in program history.
To name a few: A win over the country’s No. 1 team (Duke), an outright regular season conference title, an ACC Tournament championship and a No. 2 ranking.
“I told the players how proud I was of them,” Larranaga said after the game. “How they conducted themselves all season, the sacrifices they made and the great ambassadors they were for the university.”
The conversation will soon turn to next year’s squad, and how Miami will replace its veteran core.
“I think what we did this year is a lay a foundation of what the program could be like,” Larranaga said. “I told the guys that when they look back on this year, they’ll have so many great memories of what they accomplished, and they’ll be able to take that with them a lifetime.”