The Watsco Center was half empty and devoid of energy for Wednesday’s 9 p.m. game, but the University of Miami Hurricanes found motivation from within and got a much-needed 74-68 win over Virginia Tech.
It was a critical game for both teams as they attempt to bolster their resumes before March. In the words of Hokies coach Buzz Williams, it was a “ginormous” game.
The Canes ended the first half on a 9-0 run and never trailed after halftime. Virginia Tech tied the game 47-47 early in the second half, and then Miami went on an 18-2 run to pull away 65-49. The Hokies had a six-minute scoring drought, and could never catch back up.
“They’re a very good offensive team, very hard to guard and our players hung tough when they made their run and tied the game up,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “It’s a good win.”
Davon Reed led UM with 18 points. He made four three pointers and was perfect on his six free throws. He also had six assists. Ja’Quan Newton added 16 points, Anthony Lawrence had 12 and Kamari Murphy chipped in 10.
“Any win in the ACC and a chance to advance in the league is big time,” said Reed. “It’s good to finally get two in a row after win one, lose one, win one. So, it’s nice to get on a little win streak.”
The Hurricanes (16-7, 6-5 ACC) have won four of their past five games. The Hokies dropped to 16-7, 5-6 in the conference.
UM freshman Bruce Brown, who had been having a standout ACC season, struggled for the second game in a row. He went 1-for-12, was 0-for-5 from three-point range, and was visibly frustrated after missing open shots and an easy dunk.
“I’ve talked to Bruce because he hasn’t appeared to be himself in the last two games,” said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. “He doesn’t notice it, but coaches notice it. Now he might notice it. Energy. Normally he’s the smiley, happiest guy, going crazy. He’s kind of been subdued.”
The scouting report on the Hokies said they were second in the ACC in field goal percentage, and they have a knack for getting to the free throw line. Both proved true on Wednesday. In the first half, the Hokies shot 52 percent and had made nine of 10 free throws. And by the end of the night, they had been to the free throw line 25 times, compared to 13 for UM.
Miami got to the free throw line only three times in the first half, and made one shot. But strong post play by the Hurricanes and key baskets off turnovers gave them the edge. The Hokies had 15 turnovers, five more than the Canes, and UM scored 22 points off those turnovers.
“We had way too many mistakes, particularly in the second half,” said Hokies coach Williams. “Nine turnovers are way too many against a team as good as they are. A turnover against Miami is almost assured of a basket. A blocked shot by Miami is almost assured of a basket. And a questionable shot against Miami is almost an assured basket in transition.”
Five Hokies scored in double figures – Justin Robinson (15), Chris Clarke (13), Ahmed Hill (12), and Seth Allen and Zach LeDay with 10 apiece. LeDay also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Hurricanes improved to 11-2 at home this season, and have won 24 of their past 26 home games.
They hit the road for a Saturday game at No. 4 Louisville, then return home to face Georgia Tech and Clemson. Their final four games are at No. 9 Virginia, at home against No. 21 Duke, at Virginia Tech, and at No. 15 Florida State.