After an extended cross-country road trip that included losses to George Washington and Nebraska as well as victories against Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State, the Miami Hurricanes (5-5, 0-1 ACC) returned home on Sunday to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (7-3, 1-0) in their first conference matchup.
The familiar turf, however, did not propel the Canes to a victory. Virginia Tech took Miami down in overtime, 61-60.
The disappointment on the players’ faces was blatantly obvious as Miami squandered a seven-point lead with five minutes left in regulation. The Canes were up by as many as 13 in the second half and led the Hokies since midway through the first quarter.
“I thought in the first half we pretty much executed our gameplan the way we wanted to,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “We defended them pretty well, only gave up 23 points. Contested the three pretty well – they still made I think five 3s – which we would’ve preferred it be at one or two less. But offensively I thought we played pretty good.”
It did in fact look like Miami was going to cruise to a 1-0 start in ACC play with the offense clicking early. The Canes were able to get high-percentage looks around the basket, scoring 18 points in the paint in the first half and shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
Conversely, Miami held the Hokies to just four points inside and 30 percent from the field.
Miami then extended its lead early in the second half, but would soon be slowed down by the return of a familiar foe: poor shooting.
“We’re having a hard time making open shots,” Larranaga said. “We need to figure out a way to play better together.”
But while Miami’s second-half field goal percentage dropped to 31, Virginia Tech kept fighting and was able to erase the deficit to force the Canes into their fourth overtime game of the season.
Before that, the Hokies had Miami fans and players gasping for air after nearly sinking an improbable buzzer beater off of an inbounds play with .3 seconds left.
The Canes’ scoring woes continued in overtime, but Miami hung tough and was tied with under 30 seconds to go. A Jarrell Eddie jumper then gave the Hokies a 61-59 lead with 20 seconds to play.
“He’s a good shooter,” said senior Rion Brown, who had to guard Virgina Tech’s leading scorer (Eddie, 24 points) for much of the game. “And the thing with him is even when he got the ball and picked it up, he was still looking to shoot, so you have to have great position. And a couple of times he got to the side of us just enough to get it off and he made tough shots.”
After Eddie’s big bucket, Miami still had a chance to tie the game late when senior guard Garrius Adams, who led UM with 14 points, was fouled and sent to the line. Adams, however, missed his second free throw which would seal Miami’s fate.
Teammate Donnavan Kirk snagged the subsequent rebound, but could not score from a tough angle as the final seconds ticked away.
“The one thing I know, all these guys are trying very hard,” Larranaga said. “They’re trying to do the right thing, but it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.”
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