Miami bounces back against Virginia

You can say what you want about kids nowadays but boy, are they resilient. Just look at the past few days. A little more than 48 hours after North Carolina loses a heartbreaking basketball game to arch-nemesis Duke – at home – it goes and annihilates Miami on Saturday.

The Hurricanes, who traveled to Chapel Hill, N.C., came home and then had a short prep against a Virginia team, which not only had a week to prepare but plays a completely different style than North Carolina. So what happens? Miami gets the upper hand early Monday night, builds a lead in the second half, then holds off the No. 3 Cavaliers at the end, 64-61.

With guard Davon Reed hitting 5-of-6 3-pointers, the Hurricanes made 10-of-19 from behind the line and overcame getting outrebounded, shooting poorly from the free-throw line and seeing Virginia take 12 more shots. “I think amongst the captains, and it trickles down, is that we said we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Reed said. “That game hurt, but it’s in the past, we have to put it behind us. We still have a chance to win the league and we have to win out from here. We need to be aggressive from start to finish tonight, and we were.”

Against North Carolina, Miami coach Jim Larranaga thought his team was too amped up and that turned into anxiety when their mistakes turned into run outs, layups and dunks. In some ways, Virginia’s methodical style served Miami well, which showed its patience in an early possession where there was good passing, which ended in a Reed trey. “Tonight, we were very calm,” Larranaga said.

Make no mistake, Virginia is every bit the Final Four contender North Carolina is. The Cavaliers, who will entertain the Tar Heels Saturday, have beaten Villanova, Louisville, West Virginia, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh by double figures this season while they’ve also won at Ohio State.

They have a go-to player in Malcom Brogdon (28 points), who operated beautifully inside and outside the 3-point lane. They also have a zone buster in London Perranates, who came into the game as a 54-perent three-point shooter. A Hurricanes killer in the past, he went scoreless for the first 23 minutes.
Coach Tony Bennett cringed as he talked about the number of short shots his players missed. Don’t be surprised if those shots fall in March as Virginia makes a deep tournament run. Unlike most top teams this season, the Cavaliers don’t have a double-digit loss. Virginia’s style also is the way most NCAA Tournament games are played. “They’re so disciplined,” Larranaga said.

However, Monday was Miami’s night. Despite guard Ja’Quan Newton (bone bruise) and Sheldon McClellan (ankle) not in mint condition, the Hurricanes persevered. Center Tonye Jekiri (nine points, six rebounds, five assists) made great decisions when double-teamed down low. McClellan didn’t start covering Brogdon early but he finished on him. With 23 seconds left and Miami up just 61-59, McClelland forced Brogdon out a couple of feet beyond the 3-point line where his shot fell short.

“The whole game he was curling real tight and would either shoot or bounce to the big man,” McClellan said. “I told myself I was not going to let him curl. With the day he was having, I would have shot it, too.”

Larranaga has gotten his players to believe that every game is important. But some do have more significance than others. After being throttled Saturday, Miami faced a team it had lost to earlier this season. These are the kind of teams the Hurricanes will have to beat to make the Final Four.
And Monday night, they persevered.

Larranaga told his team Sunday that “Everybody gets knocked down. That’s how life works. The key is how you respond. We got knocked down big time but we fought and showed what we’re made of.”