The ‘Canes looked crisp in pre-game warm-ups. Players were putting in reverse layups and throwing between-the-legs passes to one another. The requisite lay-up line turned into a dunk line, while the defensive ball tracking drill was performed like a synchronized swim team.
A fadeaway three pointer goes up and…airball. It’s hard to be perfect.
In contrast to the pre-game drills, Miami started slow offensively by missing their first six shots while committing two offensive fouls. Guard Sheldon McClellan scored the first points for Miami on a pair of free throws. The ‘Canes didn’t score an on-court basket until center Tonye Jekiri threw down an easy dunk almost five minutes into the game. Miami guard James Palmer followed that up by putting his head down and driving for a difficult pair on the next possession.
Even so, the cold stretch continued.
The lone bright spots were an Angel Rodriguez step-back three at the shot clock buzzer and another tough lay-up by Palmer, this time on a sweet-looking scoop shot.
Hurricane guard Anthony Lawrence Jr. made a lay-up with 35 seconds to go in the first half to put Miami on equal footing with VT, 21-21 tying the game for the first time since the score was 10-10. Miami went nearly eight minutes with only 11 points, indicative of the ‘Canes’ 30.4% shooting percentage in the first half.
It turned out the pre-game defensive drills were only a foreshadowing of things to come. Miami’s early game defense was glued to the ball. In the first half, Miami recorded 4 steals, 4 blocks, and 12 defensive rebounds.
The second half was the complete opposite of the first with Miami taking the lead less than a minute in with baskets by Jekiri and Rodriguez. The first four minutes saw the ‘Canes score as many points (11) as they did in separate eight and twelve minute spans in the first half.
Forward Kamari Murphy fumbled a breakaway pass after an intuitive steal by McClellan that could’ve put Miami up 10. However, McClellan’s pair of free throws less than a minute later made up for the missed basket.
It seemed whenever the ‘Canes needed a shot, Rodriguez dutifully stepped-in. He was able to weave his way between several defenders to put in a lay-up that gave Miami a 10-point lead with ten minutes left in the game. A minute later, Rodriguez made another three pointer putting the ‘Canes up 13. Rodriguez led all scorers with 16 points.
Guard Davon Reed threw down a gnarly, tweaked behind-the-back jam to put an exclamation point on the second-half scoring fest.
The dunk came with six minutes still left to play, but the game was all but over with the Hokies’ shooting percentage even dropping below the dismal 28.6% they shot in the first half. Even with Miami’s stellar defensive effort, they received plenty of help from VT who made only 15 total shots the entire game. VT finished the game shooting 29.6% from the field while Miami scored 44 points in the second half, leading by as much as 21 points.
As the ‘Canes have done several times this season, a slow first half gave way to an explosive second half. It could prove to be the momentum Miami (21-4) needs heading into a showdown with the second ranked team in the ACC, North Carolina (21-5) Saturday afternoon. That game is followed up by a game against the third ranked team in the ACC Virginia (21-5) Monday night.
“We gotta take care of business Saturday,” Reed said about playing North Carolina. “We’ve been looking forward to playing them.”
Their game against North Carolina is at 1 p.m. on CBS.
Notable Game Mentions
Rodriguez had a total of six turnovers. It’s the most he’s had in a game since the first game of 2016 against Syracuse when he had five turnovers in that contest.
Jekiri post move sighting! Tonye Jekiri put in a graceful basket near the end of the game when he put the ball down on the dribble in the post and spun around the defender for an easy two.
Reed continues to be the steady three guard the ‘Canes need. He went for 12 points and chipped in a solid stat line of 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal.
Alex Goldman is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. He is currently the Sports Editor of distractionmagazine.com. He’s a Northern California native and loves snowboarding, writing, and above all the Green Bay Packers.