Canes drop ACC opener in heartbreaker

In a terrific opener to ACC play, there was fight, hustle, an 18-point comeback, and more Angel Rodriguez heroics.

In the end, however, the most desirable thing – a win – slipped away.

Miami fell short against third-ranked Virginia in double overtime Saturday afternoon, though in a much more impressive performance than recent losses to Eastern Kentucky and Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“That was, for me, very painful,” head coach Jim Larrañaga said.

It took Miami a half to start producing offensively, however. Virginia’s defense, ranked 2nd in the country in points per game (PPG) allowed, held Miami to just 20 points in the first half on 9-25 shooting, including just 2-9 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers, who now stand at 13-0 – just one of four undefeated teams in the country – led 38-20 at the break.

In what was truly a tale of two halves, Miami came out of the break firing, led by Omar Sherman, who posted a career-high 13 points, including three triples that sparked the crowd and helped start a Canes rally. Miami also turned up its defensive pressure, limiting Virginia to just one field goal in 10 attempts through a stretch in the second half. Miami would come within one possession on numerous occasions, but each time UVA’s London Perrantes would counter with a huge bucket, he finished with 26 points, despite averaging just 3.1 PPG.

It appeared Miami’s desperate rally would fall short, with five seconds left in the second half. Virginia’s Evan Nolte was fouled and had two free throws with a 63-60 lead to ice the game, but missed both, giving Miami a chance.

That gave Angel Rodriguez an opportunity, just as he did at Florida, to make a big play when it mattered most. Hoisting up a desperation three, he was fouled by Justin Anderson with 0.9 left on the clock, and in calm fashion, made all three free throws.

“I’m the type of person who likes to be under pressure,” Rodriguez said. “I think I handle it well. I felt like I was by myself in the gym.”

Miami controlled most of the first overtime period, and even led by four with just 30 seconds to play. But with 15 seconds remaining, Justin Anderson knocked down a three of a screen to tie the game at 71, and Miami could not get off a shot in time to end the first overtime (OT).

It was apparent that both teams were gassed in the second OT, and after a three from Sheldon McClellan to start the period, Miami would not score again until there was 1:57 left, and trailing by three at that point. Virginia would then ice the game with free throws en route to the victory.

It is a game in which Miami will look back with a good bit of regret. The Canes went 4-11 from the line in the closing minutes of the second half. Shots were rushed in the first overtime period with a lead, and easy shots missed as well. A defensive lapse allowed the Justin Anderson three to tie the game.

But it was also a performance in which Miami showed an incredible amount of grit, and the ability to hold their own with one of the best teams in the country. Moral victories are little solace, but if Miami plays with the same intensity they displayed in the second half and overtimes, they will certainly avoid any let-down games down the road reminiscent of the Eastern Kentucky performance.

It was a thriller at the BUC. ACC season has arrived.