When asked why he transferred to the University of Miami, Charlie Moore said he wanted to win in his final season at the NCAA level. Moore, a sixth-year redshirt senior, led by example against Syracuse, scoring a season-high 25 points in Miami’s 88-87 win.
“The will to win, we just had to make those adjustments. We never doubted ourselves,” Moore said. “I just told the team to stay together. We just had to figure out how to score against the 2-3 [zone].”
Wednesday night’s high-scoring affair at the Watsco Center saw a total tale of two halves. For the fifth time in his coaching career, Jim Larrañaga got the better of legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, with pivotal second-half adjustments corralling Miami (12-3, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) from a 14-point deficit at the break.
Miami struggle throughout the first half against Syracuse’s renowned zone. The Canes went on two scoring droughts over 2 ½ minutes in the first frame, shooting as poorly as 25% with six minutes to go.
“We were a little passive in the first half against the zone,” Larrañaga said. “We made adjustments at the half, we started trapping the ball and forcing mistakes.”
Syracuse’s 44 first-half points were the most points given up by Larrañaga’s team in an opening frame, but the Canes started the second period with a fury. Miami opened the half on a 14-3 run, while the Hurricanes held Syracuse (7-7, 1-2 ACC) without a make for the first 5:24.
Miami’s halftime adjustments were just what the doctor ordered for guard Isaiah Wong. The third-year sophomore was held scoreless for the first 29:42 of the game, but sparked to life with two layups — including a vital and-one — to boost Miami to a six-point lead with 10:00 to go.
“Isaiah has shown he can score in a variety of ways,” Larrañaga said. “I was surprised in the first half, he had a couple of nice looks.”
Wong finished the second half with 14 points, including two and-ones, two rebounds and an assist. The performance marked Wong’s 14th consecutive game in double-figures.
The game finished on an intense pace, with the two teams scoring 15 points in the final minute of the contest. Despite forward Cole Swider’s buzzer-beating three, Miami held on for another huge victory.
The win marked the eight win in a row for the Canes, who improved to 8-1 at the Watsco Center this season. Miami delivered 58 second-half points, their most of the season. The Hurricanes are now averaging 51 points in the second half of ACC contests.
Miami advanced to 8-1 on the season when three or more players finish in double-figures, with four Hurricanes scoring in double-figures for the fourth time in ACC play. After Miami dealt with injuries in each of their last three seasons, a fully healthy Hurricanes squad has started to make serious noise in college basketball.
“It’s been a few difficult years. This year, with this trust that we have in the locker room, the communication is at a different level,” Miami forward Sam Waardenburg said. “These guys are having fun, and that translated to winning games. We create a great energy, and that carries over.”
Waardenburg was only a redshirt freshman when Miami last made the NCAA Tournament back in 2018. Now, in 2022, Miami might have another tournament team brewing in Coral Gables.
Miami’s win streak is up to eight and the team has no conference losses, but the run will face its toughest challenge yet in its next contest, as Miami visits the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils on Saturday. The Hurricanes will search for their first win at Duke since 2015. The game tips off at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ACC Network.