Once again, with the game winding down to its final seconds, the Miami Hurricanes somehow, someway managed to walk off the court victorious. The Hurricanes rallied to defeat Virginia Tech 69-68 on Saturday to close out the regular season on a four-game win streak.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
▪ Another nailbiter: The Hurricanes’ thrill for close games has been evident over the past two weeks. Its four wins to close out the regular season were decided by a combined 8 points.
There was the 77-74 win at Notre Dame in which Miami held off a late rally from the Fighting Irish. There was the 79-78 win against Boston College capped by Lonnie Walker’s game-winning three-point shot with 2 seconds left. The buzzer-beating 91-88 win at No. 9 North Carolina on Tuesday in which senior Ja’Quan Newton left Tar Heel fans stunned with his 35-foot prayer shot.
And against Virginia Tech on Saturday, 5-7 freshman guard Chris Lykes clinched the game with a go-ahead free throw with 3 seconds left.
“I told the team they’re like the cardiac kids,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They somehow are enjoying being on the edge at the end of these games. I’ve coached for 46 years and can never remember four consecutive games ending on the final possession and winning all four of them.”
▪ Halftime adjustment: At the halfway mark, though, it seemed as if Miami’s magic had run out. The Hurricanes opened the game by missing their first five, and shot just 39.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes and went into the locker room trailing 39-32. But early in the second half, everything seemed to click. Miami made eight of its first 10 shots in the second frame and shot 59.1 percent overall in the closing 20 minutes.
“In the first half, we were taking more difficult shots,” Lykes said. “We can make those shots, but the stats show our percentages are a lot higher when we get touches in the paint and create more passes. So for the second half, that was our emphasis.”
▪ Senior sendoff: Miami honored its three seniors — Newton and Chris Stowell and Mike Robinson — before the game Saturday. Robinson and Stowell, both walk-ons who played a combined 19 minutes this season, earned their first collegiate starts. Stowell made a free throw attempt a little more than a minute into the game to open scoring and tally the first point of his Miami career.
▪ No update on Bruce Brown: Larrañaga said he did not have an update on sophomore Brown, one of the Hurricanes’ top all-around players who has sat out the past 10 games with a foot injury. Brown is expected to be re-evaluated March 13. The Hurricanes have gone 7-3 in Brown’s absence.
▪ Postseason push: Miami’s attention now shifts to the postseason. First up: The ACC tournament in Brooklyn. The Hurricanes earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and will open play in the quarterfinals on Thursday. As for the NCAA tournament, with 22 regular season wins, Miami should be a shoo-in regardless of how the conference tournament shakes out.