After a two-game skid with losses against Notre Dame and Virginia, Miami men’s basketball was able to bounce back in a major way, defeating Georgia Tech, 79-70.
Forward Sam Waardenburg led UM in scoring with 19 points. The sixth-year redshirt senior also tied third-year sophomore forward Anthony Walker with a team-high eight rebounds.
Walker, who got the start ahead of fourth-year junior Jordan Miller (day-to-day with a right leg injury), was impressive, finishing with 12 points on top of his sizable impact on the boards.
“Everyone brought energy today,” Walker said. “The energy that [Miller] brought on the bench was magical, as well.”
A spark of energy was needed in the later stages of the first half, as Miami (17-7, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailed by as many as 14 points with 5:56 remaining in the opening period. Waardenburg provided that jolt, connecting on a 25-foot 3-pointer that ignited a 16-4 UM scoring run to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to only two points heading into halftime.
“[Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga’s] message at halftime was that we had to defend better,” Walker said. “[Georgia Tech] was a little comfortable on offense, so we just had to play a little bit tougher and just defend more.”
Miami’s defense improved in the second half, limiting the Yellow Jackets (10-13, 3-9 ACC) to only 34 points as well as forcing eight Georgia Tech turnovers in the final period of play.
Sixth-year guard Kameron McGusty led the Hurricanes’ second half offensive charge, scoring all 17 of his points after halftime.
“I thought Kam’s passing in the second half was critical,” Larrañaga said. “Kam ended up with only two assists, but he probably could’ve had half a dozen assists if we made a few more shots.”
“He played a terrific floor game,” Larrañaga continued regarding McGusty’s second half performance. “He hit a couple mid-range shots when the game was in the balance, and then he made most of his free throws.
Next up for Miami is a rematch against Wake Forest, whom the Hurricanes defeated 92-84 on Jan. 1 at the Watsco Center. Tip-off will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“I think [Wake Forest] may be the best team in the ACC,” Larrañaga said. “They have Alondes Williams, who’s leading the league in scoring and in assists. If he finishes the season that way, he’ll be the only player in conference history to do that.”