On Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours after Angel Rodriguez missed a potential game-winning three-point shot that would have topped No. 12 Louisville on the road and impressed the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the University of Miami point guard was back in the gym, reliving the heartbreaking play.
Over. And Over. And over again.
Rodriguez was with UM assistant coach Chris Caputo, and they were doing a drill meant to remind Rodriguez that despite an 11-game shooting slump, he is perfectly capable of hitting that shot under pressure. They set the shot clock at eight seconds, just like it was at Louisville. He got the ball, raced up the court, and then, with a defender in his face, sank the three. Multiple times.
Caputo and the rest of the Hurricanes coaching staff are trying to get Rodriguez to clear his mind, ignore his recent shooting stats — 22 of 103 (21.4 percent) since the Duke game — and get back to playing freely. They hope he finds his rhythm Wednesday in a 9 p.m. home game against Florida State.
“For Angel, like with all players who get into slumps, he is dwelling on makes and misses, which is easy to do, but then you start thinking of the negative … ‘I can’t make my shot,’ or ‘I’ve got no luck,’ or ‘I’ve missed my last two jumpers, so maybe I’ll miss the next one,’ ” Caputo said. “Angel’s misses have been very magnified because his highs this season were very, very high, and then he has had some very deep, low-shooting percentages.’’
Rodriguez’s Jekyll-and-Hyde shooting mirrors his team’s inconsistent play this season. He averaged 24.3 points against top-eight teams Virginia, Duke and Florida but went scoreless (0 for 8) against Georgia Tech, shot 1 for 10 against Notre Dame, and 1 for 12 against Louisville.
Caputo senses that Rodriguez, being a local high school product and high-profile transfer, is carrying too much of the burden.
“The guy feels the weight of the season on his back, everyone’s talking about his first 15 games versus now, and that’s no way to play,” Caputo said. “He needs to stay in the present.”
Despite the scoring woes, Rodriguez remains the Hurricanes’ starting point guard, played 38 minutes against Louisville, and is the guy whom coach Jim Larrañaga chose to take the final shot. Larrañaga said he continues to have faith in Rodriguez.
“Angel has earned that confidence,” Larrañaga said Monday. “He’s shown that when he’s on top of his game, we are a very, very good team. He impacts our team in so many more ways than scoring.
“He is very good defending the other team’s ball handler. He is very good sharing the ball. Half of Sheldon’s [McClellan’s] baskets are because Angel is finding him. Same for Davon Reed and Tonye Jekiri. It’s unfortunate his shot has not been falling through, but we are trying to help him correct that.”
Larrañaga said he wants Rodriguez to believe “his best games are still ahead of him, not behind him.’’
The Canes (17-10, 7-7 ACC) have two home games remaining — FSU and No. 15 North Carolina on Saturday — followed by road games at Pitt and Virginia Tech. UM has lost four ACC games by five points or less and had a double-overtime loss to No. 2 Virginia (25-1). They hope to boost their tournament résumé.
“We’ve been very, very close without playing our best,’’ Larrañaga said. “I still think our best basketball is ahead of us. We’re in the hunt, and if we can play at our best, we can win any game we’re in.”
Wednesday: Florida State at UM men
When/where: 9 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560 AM, WVUM-90.5 FM.
Records: UM 17-10, 7-7 ACC; FSU 15-13, 7-8.
Noteworthy: The Seminoles beat the Hurricanes 55-54 on Jan. 19 in Tallahassee. … FSU leads the ACC with 78 blocked shots. … The Canes are coming off a 55-53 loss at No. 12 Louisville, and the Noles lost 51-41 at No. 2 Virginia.