Hurricanes set to host Virginia Tech, honor seniors in final home game

Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty attempts a shot during the second half of Miami's loss against Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Watsco Center. McGusty led Miami with 20 points while adding three rebounds and four assists.
Sixth-year redshirt senior Kameron McGusty attempts a shot during the second half of Miami's loss against Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Watsco Center. McGusty led Miami with 20 points while adding three rebounds and four assists. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Five seniors will be honored on Saturday afternoon as the Miami Hurricanes play their final game in the friendly confines of the Watsco Center for the 2021-22 season.

Sixth-year seniors Kameron McGusty, Rodney Miller Jr., Charlie Moore and Sam Waardenburg, as well as fifth-year redshirt junior Deng Gak, are in line to be celebrated before the Hurricanes (20-8, 12-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) square off against the Virginia Tech Hokies (17-11, 9-8 ACC).

“It’s been a pleasure to get to know them, it’s been a pleasure being around them,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said of his senior class. “And it’s been very very enjoyable to have the kind of season that we’ve had so far because we’ve enjoyed success as a team.”

This year’s senior class plays a sizable role in the success of the Hurricanes on the court, representing a large portion of the team’s core – no game exhibited this more than Miami’s last matchup with the Hokies which saw McGusty lead the team with 19 points as Moore decided the game by making a last-second heave.

“Virginia Tech’s a great team, so we just have to lock in defensively and limit their 3-point shots; they’re a great 3-point shooting team,” Moore said. “Hopefully, we don’t win off a buzzer beater again.”

Three-point defense will be of the utmost importance to the Hurricanes if they wish to repeat their 78-75 victory over the Hokies at Cassell Coliseum with less drama required this time.

Virginia Tech sits at sixth in Division I basketball in 3-point shooting percentage at 39%, and its 50% clip from beyond the arc in the previous meeting between the two teams played a large role in keeping the game close.

Larrañaga stressed that 3-pointers won’t be the only defensive point of emphasis for Miami on Saturday though; he wants the Hurricanes to continue to “put enough pressure on them, force enough turnovers, that we can get into the open court and score before their defense gets set.”

Head coach Jim Larrañaga shouts plays out to Miami in the closing minutes of Miami's loss to Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Watsco Center.
Head coach Jim Larrañaga shouts plays out to Miami in the closing minutes of Miami's loss to Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Watsco Center. Photo credit: Josh Halper

This is a strategy that has paid dividends for Miami over the course of the year, particularly in its most recent game, when the Hurricanes scored 30 points off turnovers compared to the Pittsburgh Panthers’ 13, including a 19-0 mark in that category in the first half alone.

A great defensive effort in front of what should be an energized Senior Day crowd would appear to spell a victory for the normally hot-scoring Hurricanes, but matchups between Miami and Virginia Tech are never that simple: the last four contests between the teams have been decided in the final possession or overtime.

“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been in dogfights every time we’ve played them,” McGusty said on the recent history between the two teams. “The last three years it’s always been close ones, it’s never been a blowout.”

With Miami looking to cement its NCAA Tournament résumé and Virginia Tech aiming to bolster its own, Saturday’s matchup is primed to provide a senior day to remember as another chapter is added to a budding rivalry. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.