In their regular season finale, the Miami Hurricanes tied a school record with 15 three-pointers, romping the Virginia Tech Hokies 82-61 and priming themselves for a strong run in the ACC tournament.
For Miami, a team locked on the NCAA tournament bubble, it is essential to have a strong showing next week in Greensboro. The Hurricanes ideally need a win, and possibly two, to impress the committee enough for a March Madness bid.
Now, at season’s end, the Hurricanes stand 20-11 overall and 10-8 in conference play. Although the conference tournament has yet to start, the Hurricanes have crafted an enigmatic resume to present before the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Miami has shown it can compete with the best teams in the nation this season, notably defeating No. 4 Duke on the road 90-74 and ending the Blue Devils’ 41-game home win streak, which was the longest active streak in Division I.
The Hurricanes also defeated No. 8 Florida in Gainesville, and took back-to-back ACC regular season champions Virginia to double over time before losing.
However, Miami has lost to lackluster opponents such as Green Bay, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Miami’s pitfalls have placed it on the outside looking in, and it was essential to win on Saturday against Virginia Tech.
Against the Hokies, the trio of James Palmer, Manu Lecomte and Ivan Cruz-Uceda led the Canes. Transfer center Ivan Cruz-Uceda set a career-high with 18 points. Palmer, an 18-year-old freshman, scored 17 points and was 5-5 from beyond the arc, and Lecomte added 19 while shooting 6-8 from the field.
Point guard Angel Rodriguez again sat out due to a wrist ailment. This is the second straight game Rodriguez has not played, and the team captain played just three minutes against North Carolina on Feb. 28.
In light of the matchup against a smaller Virginia Tech team, Head coach Jim Larrañaga opted to start a line up of four ball handlers and Tonye Jekiri. The result was a court-spreading squad of James Palmer, Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed and Manu Lecomte, paired with the ACC leading rebounder.
Miami shot 58 percent from three-point range in the game, and set a season-high for three-point field goals made in a game with 15. Fifteen made three-point attempts also tied the school record.
Spacing the floor with their four-guard lineup, the ball flowed with ease. It was a good sign for the Hurricanes, who have struggled at times with team captain Angel Rodriguez off the court.
Equally impressive early on, was the Hurricanes’ defense, which held the Hokies scoreless for a five-minute period in the first half. Larrañaga’s team held the Hokies to just 35 percent shooting from the field, playing smothering defense against a less athletic Hokies team. Miami led 46-18 at the intermission.
Now, the Hurricanes wait to find their seeding in the upcoming ACC tournament. Larrañaga has previously stated that he thinks the Hurricanes need to win two games in the conference tournament to receive tournament consideration.
Featured photo courtesy HurricaneSports