Canes to face Yellow Jackets, look to continue ACC momentum

Sophomore Manu Lecomte has seen his role grow in his second year with the Canes. Nick Gangemi // Photo Editor

The freshly ranked No. 23 University of Miami Hurricanes welcome the unranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to the BankUnited Center 9 p.m. Wednesday. It is the Canes’ first game as a ranked team since their loss to mid-major Eastern Kentucky at home on Dec. 19.

“It’s exciting to be ranked in the top 25, but we can’t lose our edge like we did early in the season. We have to come out hungry,” said junior star Sheldon McClellan.

The Yellow Jackets (9-10, 0-7 ACC) stumble into Coral Gables having lost seven games in a row, and eight of their last nine. However, Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga hopes his team can learn from their past shortcomings.

“Hopefully we have learned some things about ourselves this season that will allow us to be better and take each game one at a time and do a better job of preparing for each and every opponent,” he said Monday.

The Hurricanes (14-5, 4-2 ACC) are beginning to show signs of consistency and may be rounding into form. Larrañaga’s squad is 4-1 in their last five games, losing only to currently eighth-ranked Notre Dame.

Interestingly, the Canes current streak of play has coincided with the return of sophomore guard Davon Reed. Larrañaga first started Reed against Notre Dame. Reed is a long 6-foot-6 swingman on the wings, proving to be a great compliment to the 6-foot-5 McClellan. Reed tore the meniscus in his left knee in early September, and returned in December, a month earlier than projected. 

While Larrañaga regularly starts Angel Rodriguez, Manu Lecomte, Tonye Jekiri and McClellan, the third guard spot has been searching for a qualified owner. Graduate transfer Joe Thomas and redshirt freshman Deandre Burnett have started at different points throughout the season as well. 

The GT – Miami match up is an interesting dichotomy of two programs both in the fourth year under its respective head coach. The Hurricanes have shown marked improvement under Larrañaga—he earned ACC regular season and tournament titles 2013, as well as a two-seed in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Undoubtedly, the program has benefited from Frank Haith (who never had a winning record in ACC play) leaving for Missouri and being replaced by Larrañaga. 

Georgia Tech, meanwhile, is in the fourth year of coach Brian Gregory’s program and currently rests in the basement of the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have never finished higher than ninth in the ACC under Gregory, and have finished 11th twice. Gregory has one winning season as Tech’s headcoach, finishing 16-15 in 2013.