The Miami Hurricanes got more than they bargained for Wednesday night, ultimately pulling out a 73-64 victory over Virginia Tech and extending their winning streak to eight games.
“We haven’t been in this position before, but we do have veteran players,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “Tonight, we didn’t have that emotional lift from the crowd, but we did have good steady effort that increased throughout the game.”
Shane Larkin led the Hurricanes with 25 points as Miami improved to 16-3 and 7-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“It was an up-tempo game, [Virginia Tech] is an up-tempo team,” Larkin said. “I believe our team is very versatile and I believe tonight was a great night for that.”
Virginia Tech coach James Johnson, who coached under Larranaga at George Mason during the 2006 season, had his team ready for the 14th-ranked Hurricanes right off the bat.
The Hokies started quickly in the first half, led by 12 points from Erick Green.
Tech led by as many as 12 points in the first half, but a 7-0 run by Miami to close the half made it 32-29 at the break.
“I think Shane did a good job of keeping us in the game,” Kenny Kadji said. “We knew Virginia Tech would have a chance to win the game. We wanted to stay as close as we could, then come out in the second half and play harder.”
Tech exploited some holes in the Miami defense, hitting five three-pointers in the first half. Green, who had been leading the Hokies single-handedly, got strong efforts by fellow guards Robert Brown and Jarell Eddie, each of whom scored eight points in the first half.
The Hurricanes began the second half on a 9-2 run to gain the lead, but Green and the Hokies rallied back.
“They had a great student section tonight,” Larkin said.
“They were loud and caused havoc for us. It was a fun environment.”
The physical defense of the Hurricanes wasn’t enough to contain Green, who entered the week as the nation’s leader in points per game (25.2). The senior finished with 30 points Wednesday.
Kadji, who scored 18 points, said the Hurricanes weren’t expecting to shut down Green, only to make it tough on him.
“You can’t stop the leading scorer in the nation, you just want to make it tough on him and try and limit the other guys, too,” Kadji said.
With the Hokies leading 43-41 halfway through the second half, the Hurricanes went on a 13-2 run over the next four-plus minutes to take a 54-45 lead.
With less than two minutes to play, the Hokies cut the lead to four points. With the shot clock running down, Larkin hit a deep three-pointer to ice the game.
“I was really proud of us,” Larranaga said. “I told the team that this was a gut-check, and we responded.
“We took a major blow in the first half and we came back at them.”