Like the Seattle Seahawks, the University of Miami Hurricanes woke up Monday morning frustrated, depressed and second-guessing what might have been had they done a better job executing the final play of their Sunday game.
But unlike the Seahawks, for whom Sunday’s Super Bowl loss will sting until next season, the Hurricanes had to get over the 55-54 loss at Florida State quickly because they have a big home game Tuesday night against No. 9 Louisville.
The Canes (14-7, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) had been ranked No. 23, but they dropped out of the AP Top 25 poll on Monday after squandering a 16-point lead to the Seminoles and failing to score on their final possession. A win over the Cardinals (18-3, 6-2 ACC) would soften the blow from Tallahassee and get this roller coaster of a UM season back on the upswing.
“It was disappointing,’’ UM point guard Angel Rodriguez said. “We had it. But there’s nothing you can do but take care of the next game. We have a huge opportunity at home with Louisville, a top 10 team. It doesn’t get any better than that. We have to be extra-pumped for this one. If we win this game, whatever happened in the last two games won’t be forgotten, but we’ll be able to focus on the positive rather than the negative.’’
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There has been plenty of both this season. UM has signature road wins at then-No. 4 Duke, at then-No. 7 Florida, and at Syracuse. The Canes also beat Illinois, which was ranked 24th at the time, and took then-undefeated No. 2 Virginia to double overtime. On the flip side, Miami has fallen to Eastern Kentucky, Wisconsin-Green Bay and last-place ACC team Georgia Tech.
One problem, said UM coach Jim Larrañaga, is that Rodriguez is shouldering “too much responsibility.’’ He was the go-to guy early in the season, and came up huge. Defenses noticed, so they are guarding him more tightly. He went 2 for 11 against Syracuse, 0 for 8 against Georgia Tech and 3 for 11 against FSU.
“Some of it is shot selection,’’ Larrañaga said. “But he needs his teammates to step up and play a little better so he doesn’t end up having to take and make every big shot.’’
Rodriguez says of his slump: “I knew sooner or later the scouting report was going to kick in, so it is a little more difficult to score than it was at the beginning, but I’m still getting wide open shots. They’re just not going in. I can’t blame anybody else but me.
“Yes, it is frustrating … but the only thing I can do is keep being myself. All I need is one good shooting game and everything will be all right.’’
It also hurts, Larrañaga said, that “we don’t have an inside presence.’’ Seven-foot center Tonye Jekiri is a good defender and rebounder but isn’t comfortable with his back to the basket, so opposing defenses can extend and focus on UM’s perimeter shooters.
The Canes are hoping for a big home crowd, something they didn’t get the past two times at the BankUnited Center. Larrañaga said it was “deflating’’ to return home to a “half-empty’’ arena after the Duke win.
“I’ve always said, ‘In Miami you have to win in order to get fans to come,’ ’’ Rodriguez said. “But tell you the truth, my opinion, I thought we won a lot of good games, and did enough for fans to come support us. We deserve more support. It’s kind of disappointing.’’
Tuesday: UM men
vs. No. 9 Louisville
When/where: 8 p.m.; BankUnited Center.
Records: UM (14-7, 4-4 ACC), Louisville (18-3, 6-2 ACC).
TV/radio: Ch.33; WQAM 560, WVUM 90.5.
Noteworthy: Louisville is coming off a 78-68 win over North Carolina. The Cardinals run a variety of defenses, and UM had only one full day to prepare. Louisville players to watch include Montrezl Harrell (14.9 ppg), Terry Rozier (18.1) and Wayne Blackshear (11.8).