Miami’s second-half comeback not enough in heartbreaking loss to Florida State

Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore drives to the basket during the first half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022.
Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore drives to the basket during the first half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Miami welcomed Florida State into Coral Gables with the objective of defeating its in-state rival after falling by one point 11 days prior, while ending an eight-game skid to the Seminoles.

Even after battling from a 24-point halftime deficit, neither happened.

Just under nine seconds remained inside a sold-out Watsco Center. Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong crossed halfcourt, dribbled right and released a 14-foot jump shot over two defenders.

The ball bounced off the left side as time expired in a 61-60 Miami defeat Saturday afternoon.

“I thought that was one heck of a college basketball game,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I was thrilled to see the place sold out. Our students turned out in large numbers. It made for an absolutely electric atmosphere … I think the fans were really treated to two great basketball teams slugging it out.”

The Hurricanes (14-5, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) endured a slow start offensively, converting on three of their first 15 shots to fall behind 22-7 over 12 minutes into the contest.

As Miami struggled to reduce Florida State’s double-digit advantage, the Seminoles (13-5, 6-2 ACC) shot 56% from the floor in the first half. Veteran guard Anthony Polite led Florida State with 13 first-half points.

“In the first half, honestly, I think we were a little out of sync trying to run offense,” Larrañaga said. “What happened was we missed some wide open shots, which would’ve gotten us going. They were good shots, they were open shots. But, we missed them … When you’re not making perimeter shots, it allows Florida State just to guard the rim, which they’re so good at because they’re so big.”

The Hurricanes, 6-of-23 on field goals with seven turnovers before halftime, made adjustments and found a spark to begin climbing back into the matinee.

“We made a couple of 3’s, we were able to penetrate and pitch [the ball] for a couple of shots, but the most important thing was defense,” Larrañaga said. “Our intensity at the defensive end picked way up, and we started trapping and scrambling and forcing turnovers which really helped us.”

Sixth-year redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg and guard Charlie Moore attempt to force a turnover during the first half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022.
Sixth-year redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg and guard Charlie Moore attempt to force a turnover during the first half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

A 10-2 run brought Miami to within 18. Florida State kept the Hurricanes behind by no fewer than 15 through the final 9:23.

But then, Miami found its most-needed rhythm.

Following Wong’s three made foul shots, sixth-year redshirt senior Sam Waardenburg converted on a triple and McGusty stole the ball away at halfcourt for a breakaway dunk to establish the Hurricanes’ 15-2 surge. Miami’s deficit became six at 55-49.

Florida State, meanwhile, endured a five-minute scoring drought after leading 43-19 at halftime. Guard Caleb Mills broke the dry spell, adding back-to-back layups to extend the Seminoles’ lead back to nine with 2:40 left.

Miami, however, didn’t go away, instead rallying for one final time.

Wong completed a 4-point play and Waardenburg slammed an alley-oop dunk to revitalize the Hurricanes and their fans. The Seminoles then turned the ball over on a shot clock violation with one second to shoot.

FSU only led by one point, but managed to scrape away with the victory on Wong’s missed game-winning basket.

Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong shoots a fade-away as time expires in the second half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022. Wong did not score, and the Seminoles won 61-60.
Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong shoots a fade-away as time expires in the second half of Miami’s game versus Florida State in the Watsco Center on Jan. 22, 2022. Wong did not score, and the Seminoles won 61-60. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

“[He’s] one of the best shot makers in the country,” Waardenburg said. “Every guy has a huge amount of trust in Isaiah Wong. He clearly shows he can do things like that.”

With Miami’s loss, Florida State’s streak of sweeps in the teams’ season series extends to four. The Hurricanes and Seminoles are now tied for first place in the ACC standings.

UM also dropped its first home contest in ACC competition of the season, after rallying back in similar fashion from previous matchups.

“It’s a tough one. It’s one that we wanted especially after the [loss] up at FSU,” Waardenburg said. “Obviously, that’s a bit of a sting but the thing Coach L emphasized to us in the locker room after that was just keeping our heads high, keeping our energy high. You know that we fought hard for that one. We just didn’t have a great first half, everyone could see that … I want to thank the fans as well, that was probably the loudest game I’ve played at the Watsco Center.”

Miami is next inside Cassell Coliseum Wednesday for a road contest versus Virginia Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“We couldn’t just quit the game in the first half because we were down by 26,” Wong said. “We all stayed together, and that’s what I like about this team. We all play hard to the end. We can make any comeback, even if we’re down by as many points as possible. We always have that hope that we can still win the game, even though we’re not doing so well.”