The Hurricanes’ worst season under coach Jim Larrañaga came to a close on Wednesday afternoon.
Miami failed to score in the first four minutes and Virginia Tech took advantage in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The 12th-seeded Hurricanes could not overcome their slow start and fell 71-56 to the fifth-seeded Hokies at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
With the loss, Miami (14-18, 5-13 ACC) dropped its third game to Virginia Tech (24-7, 12-6 ACC) this season and capped of its first losing campaign since 2006-07 when they went 12-20.
“They jumped on us,” Larrañaga said. “It took us awhile to get started, and at halftime we had dug ourselves a huge hole.”
The Hokies opened the contest on an 11-0 run, spurred by three triples from Ty Outlaw.
Yet, Miami’s deficit got even larger.
Virginia Tech shot nearly 54 percent from the floor and nailed seven of its 13 shots from distance before the intermission
The Hurricanes trailed by as many as 20 during the first half, but guard Chris Lykes heaved in a 3-pointer to beat the halftime horn to trim the Hokies’ lead to 38-21 at the break.
“All five guys shoot the three,” Larrañaga said, who wrapped up his eighth year as UM’s coach. “They spread you out…When they’re making their shots, they’re going to score a lot of points.”
Already down to just a seven-man rotation, Larrañaga saw his team’s depth diminish further.
Fifth-year senior Zach Johnson missed the second half because of a knee injury.
Although, despite losing the veteran guard, Miami began the second period playing inspired basketball.
The Hurricanes used a 14-4 run, spanning back to Lykes’ 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to cut the deficit to seven.
However, Miami would not get any closer.
Kerry Blackshear, Jr took over. The redshirt junior forward scored or assisted on 16 of the next 18 Hokies’ points en route to notching his sixth double-double of the season.
“I really didn’t even know that I scored that much in a row,” Blackshear, Jr. said. “Just in the flow of the game, we just found good looks. I thought that the intensity on defense led to that run that they made, so I think we picked it up there, then we were able to score in transition at the rim, and finding each other on open shots. I think it started with defense on that run.”
Virginia Tech finished with four players in double-figures, led by Blackshear, Jr.’s 19 points and 10 rebounds. Outlaw registered 14 points and four triples all in the first half. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Isaiah Wilkins scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Hokies largest lead was 22 points and any chance of the Hurricanes’ mounting a comeback victory was all but doomed when Lykes was helped to the locker room after falling awkwardly on his ankle in the closing minutes. The sophomore guard tallied a team-high 19 points despite not returning.
Miami junior guard DJ Vasiljevic scored 17 points, including making four 3-pointers for the second time in as many days. Seniors Anthony Lawrence II and Ebuka Izundu failed to record double-figures in their final collegiate games.
“We’ve gone through so much adversity this season, guys are tired, some of my open shots weren’t going in, just not getting my legs under it,” Vasiljevic said.
The game was just a microcosm of what the Hurricanes’ experienced throughout the year. Miami was plagued by injuries and off-court issues.
Yet, despite the struggles, Larrañaga is hopeful for the upcoming season.
“We’ve got a good group coming back,” Larrañaga said. “We have two good recruits coming in, and we’re still very actively involved in recruiting several players.”