With forward Norchad Omier at the free-throw line with nine seconds remaining, it seemed like the ‘Canes’ 78-76 lead would be extended.
But he missed it.
Pittsburgh rushed down the court and fed the ball to Blake Hinson, who had a game-high 24 points. He chucked up a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a share of the ACC regular-season championship.
But he missed it.
With a rebound, the ‘Canes (24-6, 15-5 ACC) sealed their second-ever ACC regular season championship on Saturday night at the Watsco Center. Miami shares the regular season title with Virginia, which finished with an identical 15-5 conference record.
Fans immediately stormed the court to celebrate with the players and coaches.
“It was surreal,” guard Jordan Miller said. “Being able to just enjoy that moment with my teammates and my coaches — everybody on the staff pours a lot into this — it is just surreal.”
Several ‘Canes had outstanding performances to lift Miami past Pittsburgh. Miller had 17 points, and Omier had another double-double for the Hurricanes, scoring 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting while grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds. Miami guard Wooga Poplar made a career-high six 3-pointers to lead the ‘Canes with 18 points.
“I wasn’t feeling anything, I guess. I was just trying to win,” Poplar said. “I wasn’t really feeling anything. It felt like a workout.”
However, a two-headed scoring monster for Pitt (21-10, 14-6 ACC) made the game extremely difficult for Miami. The star duo of Hinson and guard Jamarius Burton made difficult baskets against the ‘Canes’ good defense. Burton ended his night with 13 points and four assists. Senior guard Nike Sibande also put up 16 for the Panthers.
“I give a lot of credit to [head coach] Jeff Capel and his staff for putting that team together,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “In college right now, the key is having some quality upperclassmen.”
Hinson is a junior, while Burton is a graduate student.
“They are some tough shot hitters, so respect to them,” Miller said.
However, none of the celebrations would have happened without Miami’s unbelievable job on the boards. The Hurricanes out-rebounded Pitt 42-20 to control the ball and put up 25 second–chance points.
“In a two-point game, every one of those rebounds and baskets is huge,” Larrañaga said.
Larrañaga, who was at the helm the last time Miami won the ACC regular season championship in 2013, also had his 250th victory with the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
Miami also celebrated Senior Night at the Watsco Center. Filippos Gkogkos, Anthony Walker, Harlond Beverly, Jordan Miller and Isaiah Wong were honored pre-game, and the latter four players were in the starting lineup for the ‘Canes.
With the regular season now over, Miami’s focus shifts toward the ACC tournament, where it will be the No. 1 seed. Miami plays Thursday in the quarterfinals. Tip-off will take place at noon on ESPN.
“We’re far from done. There are bigger things ahead,” Miller said about the upcoming postseason.