Miami returns home to face Georgia Tech, set to get back on track with higher spirits

Sixth-year senior guard Charlie Moore drives downcourt during the final minutes of the second half of Miami’s game versus Notre Dame in the Watsco Center on Feb. 2, 2022.
Sixth-year senior guard Charlie Moore drives downcourt during the final minutes of the second half of Miami’s game versus Notre Dame in the Watsco Center on Feb. 2, 2022. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

The Miami men’s basketball team will attempt to bounce back after two straight losses when it takes on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Instead of a tough practice, however, the Hurricanes finished their Monday preparations with a game of indoor baseball played with a beach ball to raise spirits around the team.

“The guys had a really good time,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “The coaches all felt like I did, that sometimes you just need to be rejuvenated, somehow, some way. I thought that yesterday afternoon ended on a very positive note. It was very competitive, a lot of fun and the guys enjoyed it. It’s not basketball, it has nothing to do with hoops.”

Miami (16-7, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has cooled off after a hot stretch. After losing by four to Notre Dame at home Feb. 2, the Canes went down by a bigger margin on the road at Virginia 71-58 Saturday night.

The Canes struggled all night from 3-point land, finishing the game a pedestrian 4-of-17 from beyond the arc.

“When you play Virginia, one of the key statistics is – because they pace the lane – that you’ve got to make 3’s,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We were 2-of-12 in the first half and we only made two more in the second half. That kind of was the difference in the game. We needed to shoot the ball better.”

Against Georgia Tech, Miami will look to get back to its premier perimeter play. The Canes top three scorers in Kameron McGusty (17.6 points per game), Isaiah Wong (15.7), and Charlie Moore (12.7) all play at the guard position and tend to play well spreading the floor and knocking down shots.

When the Canes don’t get their offense going, it has been difficult for the team to overcome. In its last three losses, Miami failed to score over 65 points. Each of the last 14 times in which the team has scored over 65 points in a game it has won.

Defensively, Miami should look to create another favorable turnover margin as they have failed to do so in their last two losses. The Canes have created several turnovers outside of the paint this year as the team has mounted 196 steals. With Georgia Tech’s top four scorers all shooting over 36% from three, Miami will need to cause havoc on the perimeter to disrupt the shooting rhythm of the Yellow Jackets.

“We were a step slow defensively [against Virginia]. It caused us to have a breakdown that led to easy shots: dunks and wide-open 3’s,” Larrañaga said. “That has not been the case throughout the month of January, but February is a different month and a different story so far.”

Despite some of the team’s frustrations recently, Miami comes into a game against a team it beat in their last matchup head-to-head. Miami took down Georgia Tech on the road on Jan. 29, 73-62.

Interestingly enough, Miami was able to turn what has often been a negative for the team into a positive in the late January matchup. Miami outrebounded Georgia Tech 38-31 in the game, the only time they have done so in the ACC this year. Having an unexpected advantage again could be a necessary boost for the Canes.

Now at home, Miami will have another slight edge against the struggling Yellow Jackets. While it picked up a solid five-point win against Clemson in their last game, Georgia Tech is only 3-8 overall in conference play and 1-2 away from home.

With another tip-off rapidly approaching, Miami is coming down a crucial stretch of the season. Only eight games remain on the schedule, and Miami currently holds a fifth-place spot in the ACC standings. To boost its chances at an invite to the NCAA Tournament, the team will have to win against much of the remaining schedule. Otherwise, Miami will have to go through the gauntlet of the conference in a short amount of time and come out on top in the ACC Tournament.