“We’re very, very fortunate.”
That’s what Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said after his team was a half-court shot away from giving up an 18-point lead that would have knocked them out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) tournament.
However, that half-court shot by Wake guard Daivien Williamson only hit the backboard, giving first-seeded Miami a 74-72 victory against ninth-seeded Wake Forest at Greensboro Coliseum on Thursday afternoon. The Hurricanes booked their spot in the ACC tournament semifinals with the win.
“I don’t consider them a middling ACC team,” Larrañaga said. “I consider [Wake Forest head coach] Steve Forbes, his staff and that program really in a great place because they’re playing extremely well throughout the season.”
Wake Forest certainly tried its best, no matter the game situation.
All looked great for the ‘Canes coming out of halftime, as they extended their 34-29 lead with a 21-7 run in the first seven minutes of the second half. Miami’s largest lead was 18 with 9:51 left in the second half.
However, Wake Forest did not quit. Separate scoring streaks of seven and eight points allowed the Demon Deacons to cut the large deficit. Additionally, Wake Forest hit five 3-pointers in the final five minutes, allowing them to creep closer to Miami with every make.
Miami wouldn’t have been able to beat Wake Forest without slowing down the leading scorer and passer in the entire ACC, Tyree Appleby. The student guard put up 24 points but only shot 8-for-24 from the field and 5-for-15 from 3-point range. He also had three turnovers and fouled out of the game. Appleby averages 43% shooting from the floor and 36% shooting from 3-point range.
“Tyree Appleby is one of the best point guards in the country, and [Wake Forest’s] ability to make 3-pointers is exceptional,” Larrañaga said.
Wake Forest shot 35.5% from deep, even while missing its most efficient 3-point scorer in Damari Monsanto. The Pembroke Pines native averaged 13.3 points per game and shot 40.5% from deep during the regular season.
Miami countered Appleby and the Demon Deacons with extremely efficient scoring. The team shot 52.5% from the field, and no player shot worse than 44%. Jordan Miller led the scoring for the ‘Canes with 18 points, while ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong was close behind with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
In addition, forward Norchad Omier tallied 14 points and ten rebounds, which clinched his 14th double–double.
“I would say that I just try to help the team in any aspect I can,” Omier said. “I love rebounding. I love playing defense. I want to help the team.”
Miami was able to pull out the win and continue toward ACC tournament glory.
“Survive and advance. Lose and go home. We won. We’re moving on,” Larrañaga said.
Next up for the ‘Canes are the fourth-seeded Duke Blue Devils. They beat the No. 5 seed, Pitt, 96-69 to advance. The last time the two teams played, Miami had one of its best games of the season, beating them 81-59 at the Watsco Center in February. Tip-off will be on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum on ESPN.