It was electrifying. It was great TV. It was a double-overtime thriller that had the BankUnited Center crowd going bonkers and pointing cellphone cameras at the court to capture the late-game drama.
The gritty University of Miami Hurricanes came oh-so-close to pulling off an upset of undefeated No.3 Virginia on Saturday night but wound up heartbroken after an 89-80 loss.
They had rallied from 18 points down at halftime, forced overtime with three clutch free throws by Angel Rodriguez with less than a second to go in regulation.
“I felt like I was all by myself in the gym,” Rodriguez said of the three tough shots. “I like to be under pressure, and my teammates had faith in me. The moment I got fouled, they were saying, ‘We’re going to OT.’”
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UM led by as many as four in the first overtime.
But the Cavaliers kept calm in the second overtime, guard London Perrantes repeatedly got to the foul line and made nine late free throws, and Virginia escaped with the victory.
Perrantes scored a career-high 26 points, had eight assists and was 5 of 9 from three-point range after entering the game 5 of 21.
Rodriguez led Miami with 25 points (10 of 12 from the free-throw line), had seven assists but was 7 of 22 from the field and 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. Sheldon McClellan added 16 and eight rebounds. Omar Sherman scored 13, including three big three-pointers during the Canes’ furious second-half comeback.
“Both teams were going on fumes at the end,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We were fortunate to come out with a win.”
The Cavaliers improved to 13-0, their best start since 1980-81. The Canes dropped to 10-4 after starting the season 8-0.
“This is very painful,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Our guys dug a big hole, we were down and looked like we were out, but we played terrific in the second half, put ourselves in position to win, Angel made clutch free throws, and we did a very good job in the first OT. But the second OT we ran out of gas. These things are very hard on our team.”
Watching it all from a floor seat was former Hurricane great Darius Rice, who was honored during the game for being named to the ACC 2015 Legends Class. He said being in the building took him right back to 14 years ago, when he capped off a career-high, 43-point performance with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to upset then-No.11 UConn.
This time, there was no happy ending for the Hurricanes. Instead, there was heartache, and inevitable second-guessing. UM coaches and players will lament that they let slip away a rare opportunity to knock off a top-3 undefeated team — on national TV, no less.
What if they hadn’t missed seven free throws after closing to within three with seven minutes to go in regulation?
What if they hadn’t fouled Justin Anderson as he attempted what appeared to be an ill-fated three-pointer with 20 seconds to go in the first overtime and the Canes up 69-65?
What if they hadn’t left Anderson wide open behind the arc with 15 seconds to go in the first overtime and the Canes up 71-68?
What if they had gotten off a final shot in the waning seconds of the first overtime?
The Cavaliers were ahead by three with eight seconds to go in regulation, and Evan Nolte had a chance to seal the win, but he missed two free throws. And then Anderson fouled Rodriguez as he took an off-balance three-point shot with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Virginia never led in the first OT, but Anderson made three free throws with 20 seconds left and then made the game-tying three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining to force the second OT.