Coming off its worst shooting performance of the season, the University of Miami rediscovered its stroke — and its winning ways at home in the Atlantic Coast Conference — Wednesday night against Notre Dame.
But, man, was it close.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half and even a sizable seven points with 57 seconds remaining, the Irish put on a furious rally late before senior Rion Brown made four big free throws to help the Hurricanes escape with a 71-64 victory at BankUnited Center.
It was UM’s first home victory of the season in the ACC after starting 0-6.
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Brown, who led the Canes with 21 points, twice stepped to the free-throw line with under 30 seconds to play and made both of his attempts to stretch one-point leads back to three.
UM (13-13, 4-9 ACC) finally extinguished the Irish (14-13, 5-9) when center Raphael Akpejiori made a stop and a rebound on the defensive end and then hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 69-64 with 11.2 seconds to play.
Pat Connaughton scored a season-high 22 points and made 6 of 7 three-point attempts to lead Notre Dame.
Demetrius Jackson came off the bench and provided 17 points in the losing effort.
The Canes, who went 7 of 34 from three-point range and shot a season-low 26 percent in a loss Saturday at Virginia Tech, shot 48 percent Wednesday, including a much more efficient 7 of 19 from three-point territory.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga started an all-senior lineup for the third consecutive game.
But, unlike Saturday, the Canes came out red-hot.
UM made seven of its first eight shots — including a perfect 4 of 4 from three-point range —and took a 20-10 lead when Garrius Adams made a pretty drive to the basket for a layup with 11:52 remaining in the half.
Notre Dame missed 13 of its first 17 shots and finally ended an 11-0 Canes run when center Garrick Sherman made a free throw with 8:38 left in the half.
UM’s biggest lead of the half grew to 15 before Irish guard Eric Atkins made a transition three-pointer with one second left on the clock before the break.
Led by freshman Davon Reed’s 10 points, the Hurricanes shot 62 percent and were up 38-26 at the half.
UM, already short three scholarship guards since the start of the season because of injuries and NCAA transfer rules, played with only nine scholarship players on the roster Wednesday.
On Tuesday, UM indefinitely suspended junior forward James Kelly — fifth on the team in scoring and rebounds — for violating team rules.
Kelly is expected to miss UM’s next two games, Saturday at home against Boston College and next week at Virginia.
Wednesday’s game marked the first meeting between Miami and Notre Dame since both schools were in the Big East in 2004, when the Irish beat the Canes 72-62.
UM has held 17 of its past 19 opponents to less than 70 points, and only four teams have put up more than 70 on the Canes this season.