UVa’s Joe Harris scored 16 points at Miami.
Apparently, Miami likes to the play the role of heartbreaker for the Virginia men’s basketball team. In 2011, the Hurricanes dealt the Hoos two emotional overtime losses, which included a final-minute collapse in the ACC Tournament. Fast forward to Tuesday night’s contest in Coral Gables and Miami delivered another tough setback with the game-winning points in the final 10 seconds of a 54-50 thriller.
Those kinds of losses sting, particularly for a UVa team trying to improve its standing for postseason consideration.
“For playing such a sound game defensively, it does sting to give them one at the rim,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “They made a good play, but you want to make them hit a contested shot.”
The final 1:08 featured a lot of action as both teams tried to make the decisive play. It was Virginia’s turn first as the visitors exited a timeout trailing 46-43. The set play freed Joe Harris in the corner for a clean 3-point look, which he canned to tie the game. Miami answered out of a timeout with 51.9 seconds to go as the hosts used a double on-ball screen call to create a driving lane for Shane Larkin. His lay-up gave the Hurricanes the lead at 48-46.
After Harris made 1 of 2 free throws on the next possession, Larkin made 2 free throws to put the Canes ahead by 3 points at 50-47. With the ball on the baseline coming out of a timeout, UVa called freshman Evan Nolte ‘s number this time and he rattled home a 3-pointer to tie game again with 14.3 seconds to go.
But Miami had an answer again out of a timeout. Using the same double on-ball screen look, Larkin drew the defense and then caught the weak-side of Virginia’s defense rotating too soon by delivering a seeing-eye pass to Reggie Johnson by the basket. Johnson made the lay-up to give the Hurricanes the lead for good with 5.7 seconds remaining. Any last ditch effort from the Cavaliers (18-8, 8-5 ACC) went away when Miami stole the ensuing inbounds pass.
“Big Reggie rolled, and I saw him behind me the whole way,” Virginia’s Akil Mitchell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “[Kenny] Kadji separated, and I thought they were going to go back to Kadji for the three. I jumped, and Reggie was at the rim.”
Harris’ final surge continued his recent streak of high-scoring games. He finished with 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting despite the fact that Miami (22-3, 13-0 ACC) made a concerted effort to challenge the junior on every touch. The Hurricanes did manage to slow down Harris’ 3-point shooting; he only made 1 of 5 triples.
Unfortunately for the Hoos, Harris didn’t get enough help on offense. The team’s other four starters combined to shoot just 34.5%, a number helped by Paul Jesperson ‘s 3-of-6 shooting night. Jesperson had 8 points, while Justin Anderson added 7. Veterans Akil Mitchell and Jontel Evans added 6 and 5 points, respectively.
Overall, UVa made just 20 of 52 shots (38.5%) and 5 of 15 3-pointers (33.3%).
Miami, meanwhile, made 46.8% of its shot attempts (22 of 47). That included a scorching start where the Hurricanes made 8 of their first 10 attempts en route to an early 16-9 lead. The Canes managed to shoot a high percentage in large part because of the locations of their shots. After all, 34 of the team’s 54 points came in the paint.
Johnson and fellow post player Julian Gamble each scored 8 points to go with 7 rebounds as the Hurricanes attacked through their size advantage down low. Larkin and Rion Brown provided the perimeter balance with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“They started picking us apart [against our] post trap, but there’s not a lot of answers, since they can spread you out and get you inside,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “That’s what’s hard about them – they’re a multifaceted team and that makes it challenging.”