On a balmy day by Blacksburg standards, the Miami Hurricanes were frozen out of a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.
“I think we thought about celebrating before the game,” Hurricanes senior Sheldon McClellan said. “That hurt us against North Carolina, too. … We had a chance for something really big, and we missed it. But we’ve got bigger things to worry about with the ACC tournament and March Madness.”
Poor shooting from outside, poor passing, Virginia Tech’s sagging defense and Miami’s “terrible” defense netted the Hurricanes a 77-62 drubbing at the hands of the Hokies in the regular-season finale on Saturday at Cassell Coliseum.
“I think we wanted so badly to win, to solidify that we would get a share of the ACC championship,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We were focusing too much on the result instead of focusing on the process. We needed to focus on playing good defense, rebounding and executing on the offensive end. We did not do that.”
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The No. 7 Hurricanes (24-6) finished 13-5 in league play heading into this week’s ACC tournament. They were tied with North Carolina for the conference lead heading into Saturday’s play — remarkable for a team that started preseason practice mired in the “others receiving votes” category of the AP poll. Miami was picked to finish fifth in the league’s preseason poll.
Later Saturday, North Carolina outlasted Duke 76-72 to nail down the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. UM then dropped to the third seed when Virginia routed Louisville 68-46, as the Cavaliers grabbed the second seed.
“We had a great regular season, and they’ve got to remember that,” Larrañaga said.
On Saturday though, the Hurricanes couldn’t seem to remember their coach’s pregame speech.
“The message before the game was that we weren’t going to settle for [three-pointers],” the coach said. “Then the first thing we do, I think, is come out shoot a three. We weren’t patient. … We didn’t stay calm, cool and collected.”
Davon Reed led Miami with 19 points and McClellan added 17. But the Hurricanes made just 42.4 percent of their shots overall and made just 4 of 24 three-point tries.
“Virginia Tech played very, very well,” Larrañaga said. “They were terrific from start to finish. They defended us really well, especially in the first half.”
“They are very talented,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said of the Hurricanes. “We had to play zone cause we can’t guard ’em man [-to-man].”
The Hurricanes hit just 8 of 23 shots and just 1 of 10 three-pointers in scoring only 21 points in the first half.
The Hokies hit 48.1 percent in the first half to jump out to a 32-21 halftime lead.
The Hokies never cooled down; Miami never quite warmed up.
Justin Bibbs swished a three-pointer to start the second half, and the Hokies weathered a short-lived Miami run to seal the win.
“We didn’t get a stop,” said McClellan, who didn’t have a steal or an assist. “Our defense was terrible.”
Bibbs led Virginia Tech (18-13, 9-9) with 19 points.
The Hokies went 9 for 17 on three-pointers and shot 52.9 percent from the field.
“It was frustrating,” Larrañaga said.
“Especially the way we lost it. We were not really in the game.”