The No. 14 Miami Hurricanes extended their win streak to nine games and secured sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) on Friday afternoon thanks to a 76-65 road win against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The victory marked the first time Miami (13-1, 4-0 ACC) beat Notre Dame (8-6, 0-3 ACC) at Purcell Pavilion since February of 2018. The ‘Canes demonstrated quality basketball on both sides of the court, especially in the second half, on Friday to secure the win.
“We’re always concerned going on the road with what kind of environment we’ll be in, how we’ll play,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I didn’t think we did a great job, but because our defense and our offense really combined to give us the lead for most of the game, I think our guys played with a lot of confidence down the stretch.”
Although the Hurricanes are known for their elite offense, Miami had one of its best team defensive performances this season. The ‘Canes forced a season-high 17 turnovers and guard Nijel Pack had a career-high four steals, three of which were in the first half.
Right out of the gate, Pack was on fire offensively. He scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes, accounting for more than half of the 21 that Miami scored in that span. As a result, the Hurricanes held a nine-point lead at 25-16 with 9:25 left in the first half.
However, the Hurricanes’ offense struggled towards the end of the half, putting Notre Dame back in the game. Miami only made one field goal attempt in the last nine minutes, allowing the Fighting Irish to go on an 11-1 run and build a 34-33 lead at halftime.
“I didn’t think the energy was there in the first half,” Larrañaga told the ACC network postgame. “We came out much better in the second half.”
Miami’s defense picked it up after halftime, allowing 41.4% shooting while committing just four fouls. Miami forward Norchad Omier led the charge in the second half with 11 points – a team-high for the half – three rebounds, one steal and a block, which allowed the Hurricanes to overtake Notre Dame.
“[Norchad is a] terrific player around the basket. He is so good contesting the ball, blocking shots, [etc.], and he rebounds as good as anyone in the country,” Larrañaga said.
Multiple second-half scoring runs allowed Miami to protect its lead until the game’s end. The ‘Canes were able to effectively counter Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone defense with the help of forward Jordan Miller, who occupied the space near the foul line and made a play accordingly. He ended up with 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds and two assists in the game.
The Canes look to stay atop the ACC when they take on Georgia Tech (7-5, 0-2 ACC) at McCamish Pavilion on Jan. 4. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.