Second-ranked Miami found out how difficult life on the road can be in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The first-place Hurricanes ran into a fresher and a more determined Wake Forest team and suffered an 80-65 loss Saturday afternoon. Gone is their 14-game win streak and perfect record in the ACC.
“They just outplayed us, out-hustled us and beat us on all the 50-50 balls,” point guard Shane Larkin said of the Hurricanes (22-4, 13-1 ACC). “And they beat us on the boards, so they just outplayed us.”
The Demon Deacons (12-14, 5-9) jumped on the Hurricanes early, and when they led by 13 with five minutes left in the half, it was the largest deficit the Hurricanes had faced in an ACC game this season. The Deacons eventually built their lead to 19 late in the half.
Senior C.J. Harris led the way for the Deacons with 23 points, including a 5-for-5 effort on three-point attempts. All of Harris’ three-pointers came in the first half as the Deacons, who had a week off between games, led 42-29 at the break.
Coach Jim Larranaga of the Hurricanes turned up his defensive pressure early in the second half and they trimmed the Deacons’ lead to five with 12:24 to go. But that’s as close as they got.
“Who would have ever thought that Wake Forest beating Miami at home would be a court-rushing scene,” Larkin said about the students swarming the floor at the final buzzer. “Nobody thought that at the beginning the year. So this is a good experience for them and I know they did it as well against N.C. State.”
Durand Scott led the Hurricanes with 17 points and Larkin added 13, with Trey McKinney Jones scoring 11 and Kenny Kadji adding 10 points. The Hurricanes shot just 39 percent and had 13 turnovers.
“I thought Wake Forest was very well prepared and played hard right from the beginning,” Larranaga said. “C.J. Harris was terrific in the first half and that gave his team a lot of confidence. We made a lot of mental mistakes and didn’t play well in either half.
“Whenever you do that in the ACC you are going to suffer a loss.”
The Deacons, who also beat a ranked N.C. State team on its home floor this season, are now 2-3 against ranked opponents this season. They shot 54 percent and behind Harris, freshman point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (15 points) and Devin Thomas (10 points, eight rebounds), were able to turn back every charge by the Hurricanes.
Larkin said after the Hurricanes cut it to five in the second half that they struggled to play as a team.
“We just kept turning the ball over,” Larkin said. “We got it down to five and we’d come down and try to make the spectacular play to get even closer instead of making the smart play and that hurt us.”
The Hurricanes, who were playing their third game in seven days, dug too much of a hole in the first half and never recovered.
“This was an up-tempo game and both teams needed to run and handle the ball very well and they were able to do it at a much higher level than we did,” Larranaga said. “It really wasn’t our defense, it was our offense because we were taking bad shots and turning the ball over.”
UM’s last loss was 57-55 in overtime against Indiana State on Dec. 25. It had been a long time since the Canes had to deal with a loss, but Larranaga said his message in the locker room afterward was simple.
“We need to execute better and we need to play a lot harder than we did [Saturday],” Larranaga said.
When asked if he was worried about the effort, he said he would find out over the next couple of days.
“We’ll see,” Larranaga said. “Every day is a new day so we’ll see how we respond.”
The Hurricanes will play at home Wednesday against Virginia Tech.
Said senior Reggie Johnson: “We just have to go back and watch film and see the things that we didn’t do well and try to correct those mistakes. Guys know that we have to go back to work.”