Their football coaches spent the day battling for recruits; and then, Wednesday night, cross-state rivals University of Miami and Florida State fought for basketball supremacy in front of a packed Watsco Center.
The 15th-ranked Seminoles overcame a halftime deficit and earned the state bragging rights with a 75-57 win over a UM team that once again unraveled after intermission.
The unranked Hurricanes held a three-point edge at halftime, but FSU dominated after the break, using a 16-2 run and suffocating defense to open a lead that would only get wider as the game wore on.
With 4:38 to go and Miami down 66-49, Canes fans started heading for the exits. The Canes went 2 of 11 from three-point range, had scoreless stretches of six minutes and five minutes, and the Seminoles capitalized. FSU shot 60 percent in the second half and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line.
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“They were able to take a commanding lead midway through the second half and we were never able to get stops enough to make a run on our own,” said UM coach Jim Larrañaga. “In recent games, they didn’t shoot the three as well as they did tonight and didn’t shoot their free throws as well as they did tonight. They had no weakness in their offensive game.
“We were the opposite. When you shoot 18 percent from three against a team that’s as big as they are, it’s hard to get layups.”
Dwayne Bacon and 6-10 freshman Jonathan Isaac led the Seminoles with 15 points apiece. Isaac also had seven rebounds, three steals, and scored seven straight points during a critical second-half stretch. Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 13 and Terance Mann added 11.
Freshman Bruce Brown led Miami with 17 points. Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton had 12 each.
FSU, which had jumped to No. 6 last week after beating five ranked opponents, was especially motivated after back-to-back losses that dropped it nine spots in the rankings.
“We watched a lot of film on Miami. They’re team was extremely dangerous,” said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, who spent 10 years coaching at UM in the 1990s. “Obviously, playing as well as they did against Carolina got our attention. We realized that we had to be at our very, very best in order for us to be successful here. In the first half, it was nip and tuck, and we couldn’t get over the hump until the second half.”
The Seminoles clamped down on defense in the second half, force five quick turnovers, made eight straight stops, and went on a 13-0 run to take a 47-36 lead.
Miami, meanwhile, was eager to beat another ranked team after knocking off No. 9 North Carolina last Saturday. Instead, the Hurricanes got a repeat performance of the Duke game, which they led at the half and wound up losing in a rout.
The energy on the floor was palpable from the opening whistle, and the fans — about a third of them in garnet and gold — got their money’s worth.
Rathan-Mayes scored eight consecutive points to put FSU ahead 14-13. Dewan Huell slammed down a dunk that gave UM a 20-18 lead.
Back and forth they went, the Canes displaying their athleticism while the Seminoles resembled an NBA team with 7-4 Christ Koumadje, 6-10 Isaac and fifth-year graduate student Michael Ojo, who looks more like a football lineman at 7-1 and 304 pounds.
Larrañaga said the loss was not so much due to his team’s deficiencies, but the strength of the opponent.
“The teams we’re playing are great teams,” he said. “We played very well on Saturday and beat a North Carolina team that’s in the Top 10. This night we’re playing Florida State, which last week was sixth in the country. It’s not like we’re doing anything wrong. Not like we’re not giving great effort. It’s the teams we’re playing, players we’re playing against. That Florida State team, that North Carolina team, they could win the national championship. They’re two of the best teams in the country, and we split with them.”
The rivalry between the Canes and Noles has developed over the years, and Wednesday night’s game felt like a big one from the start.
“We compete with Florida State for everything,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said before the game.
“Our admissions office competes with theirs for students. Our football programs have been battling each other, won national championships, baseball teams the same way. Basketball for a while was pretty much dominated by FSU, but we’ve been very fortunate to make it much more of a rivalry. The teams are pretty close in terms of records against each other. Should be a great game.”
It was. Until halftime.
The Hurricanes, struggling from the perimeter, got to the foul line early and often. They made 11 of 12 free throws in the first half and also outrebounded the taller Seminoles 16-14.
“Our kids were overly aggressive, I thought, in the first half and put them on the foul line, and I thought that was the biggest difference in the score in the first half,” Hamilton said.
The Hurricanes dropped to 14-7, 4-5 in the ACC. The Noles improved to 19-4 and 7-3 in the ACC.
Miami travels to N.C. State for a Saturday game. FSU plays at home against Clemson on Sunday.