University of Miami

Canes men can’t finish down the stretch, fall to veteran Irish

Miami (FL) Hurricanes guard Ja'Quan Newton (0) shoots as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Martinas Geben (23) defends as the University of Miami hosts Notre Dame at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Thurs., Jan. 12, 2017.
Miami (FL) Hurricanes guard Ja'Quan Newton (0) shoots as Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Martinas Geben (23) defends as the University of Miami hosts Notre Dame at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables on Thurs., Jan. 12, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The blimp hovered overhead, traffic snarled entering the Watsco Center parking lots, and Dick Vitale shouted excitedly into a microphone courtside on Thursday night. In other words, football season is officially over at the University of Miami and attention has turned to the basketball team as the Atlantic Coast Conference season heats up.

The Hurricanes, in throwback beige 1960s uniforms (minus the short shorts and high-top Chuck Taylors), were hoping to extend their home win streak to 22 with a victory over 20th-ranked Notre Dame.

With three minutes to go, it looked like they would get their wish. Davon Reed, spinning like a top through the paint, laid the ball in to give UM a four-point lead. The crowd of 7,972 was on its feet, cheering its lungs out. But the Fighting Irish kept fighting, Miami had two costly turnovers in the final minute, and the Hurricanes came up short 67-62.

Reed, the senior captain, led all scorers with 21 points and made several clutch second-half plays to erase Notre Dame’s 11-point lead.

But the ball slipped out of his hands as he attempted an overhead pass to Ja’Quan Newton with 1:14 to go and the game tied at 61-61. It dropped into the hands of Notre Dame’s Rex Pfluerger, and that led to a layup by V.J. Beachem, which gave the Irish the lead for good.

With 38 seconds to go, UM still had a chance. The Hurricanes trailed by just one after a missed free throw by Newton. But Notre Dame, a veteran team coming off three close victories, remained calm. Steve Vasturia made a layup, Matt Farrell made a pair of free throws, and the Canes turned the ball over with five seconds remaining.

“We just didn’t take care of the ball late in the game,” Reed said. “Didn’t execute when we needed to. Didn’t close down the stretch. A few bad passes and missed reads. We never hung our heads, just a lack of poise down the stretch.”

UM coach Jim Larrañaga agreed.

“Little things,” he said, explaining the loss. “The first half was well-played, hard-fought. They got off to a terrific start in the second half, we made our comeback, took the lead, and it was 61-all with a minute and a half to go. But the game comes down to little things. We turned the ball over at critical times.”

Newton finished with 14 points. Kamari Murphy led Miami with 12 rebounds and forced Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson into 2-for-12 shooting. Farrell had 15 points for the Irish and Beachem added 13.

Miami (11-4, 1-2 ACC) took an early 15-10 lead after back-to-back Reed three-pointers. UM stayed in front until there were five minutes left before halftime. The Irish scored eight unanswered points and pulled ahead 28-25.

The Canes tied it up just before intermission on a pair of Newton free throws.

UM freshman Bruce Brown had three blocks by halftime, along with a steal, a team-high six rebounds and four points. But the Canes had just one assist compared to nine for Notre Dame.

Miami finished with 12 blocks — its most ever in an ACC game.

Notre Dame came out strong in the second half, scoring 10 points in a row to pull ahead 38-28 with 17 minutes left.

“This was a fabulous win for us,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose team improved to 15-2, 4-0 in the ACC.

“I never thought when it was 10 or 11 that we’d win by 18. I knew a Miami run was coming and hoped we could hold them off, and we did. Our fan base is on heart medication by now.”

▪ Before the game, UM announced that it had dismissed junior forward Michael Gilmore from the team for “failure to meet team expectations.”

Gilmore, a 6-8 Jacksonville native, transferred from Virginia Commonwealth last summer and was sitting out this season, per transfer rules.

“It’s disappointing,” Larrañaga said. “He hadn’t even suited up yet, but we have certain standards, and he just didn’t adjust very well.”

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