It took the ‘Canes a few possessions to get warmed up.
Their first offensive trip ended in a near shot-clock violation that saw center Dewan Huell put up a three. The second possession ended with the ball stuck between the rim and backboard after a shot by guard Bruce Brown.
On defense, fouls by Davon Reed and Huell spotted the Hokies four points to start the game.
Miami coach Jim Larrañaga expressed displeasure with how the ‘Canes opened the game defensively. “I was very concerned when we fouled them on their first possession and second possession to start the game,” Larrañaga said. “No what we wanted.”
Coach Larrañaga said he switched the defense from a man-to-man scheme to a zone, something echoed by Reed.
“Early in the game we had some fouls, and we decided to switch and go to the ‘three’ defense,” Reed said in a postgame interview. “We were able to contain their penetration for the most part and limit our fouls. And I think that really was the change in the game for us.”
Reed contributed to the cause early and often, picking up right where he left off from Saturday’s 84-79 win over North Carolina State. In that game, Reed scored a career-high 26 points while hitting for a career-high seven three-pointers on ten attempts. Reed’s previous high was 24 points in a loss at Wake Forest in January.
The three ball has come easy to Reed this season. His precise 41.3% mark heading into the game leads the team and he’s hit from long range in every game this season.
After playing no better than third-fiddle in each of his four seasons, Reed is serving as Miami’s primary scoring threat this year. He’s scored in double digits in 17 of the last 18 games and topped the 20-point mark five times. Prior to this season, Reed’s career-high was 21 points in a win over then No. 3 Virginia.
Miami forward Kamari Murphy manufactured an opportunity to show off his jumpshot. He looked smooth swishing a turnaround j after posting up a Hokie defender by the elbow.
‘Canes guard Ja’Quan Newton got the ball stripped by the Hokies’ Chris Clarke, who proceeded to throw down a slam at the other end. The play gave Virginia Tech an 18-14 lead almost halfway through the first half.
Two possessions later the Miami offense used slick ball movement to find a wide-open Ebuka Izundu under the basket. The sophomore center got on the board with an easy two.
The first 19-plus minutes saw a back-and-forth affair. After 11 lead changes and eight ties the Hokies held a three-point lead with 1:08 left before halftime.
Suddenly, the ‘Canes took charge of the game. Reed hit his third three-pointer of the half to tie the score at 34. On the ensuing defensive possession, Huell blocked Clarke’s shot attempt. Reed was right there to corral the rebound and he took the ball up the court before dishing it to guard Anthony Lawrence Jr. Lawrence Jr. caught the ball on the wing and put up a quick three, Warriors style.
It splashed in – Warriors style – and Miami was up 37-34. Lawrence Jr. had 10 bench points in the first half.
Virginia Tech called a timeout to regroup, but it only led to another defensive stop by the ‘Canes.
This time it was Lawrence making a steal. Newton came down the court, drove to the basket and finished with strength as he was fouled. After getting knocked to the floor, Newton popped up and let out a roar in front of a baseline photographer.
He completed the old fashioned three-point play and Miami went into the locker room up six, 40-34.
Seven quick points gave the ‘Canes a nine-point lead. Before they knew what happened, Virginia Tech tied the contest once again.
Just as fast as the Hokies tied the game they were on the wrong end of a Miami scoring run.
Murphy threw down back-to-back slams seven minutes into the half. Both dunks came from Reed assists. Baskets by Izundu, Lawrence Jr., and Dejan Vasijevic preceded another trey from Reed. That one put Miami up 11, 60-49. Newton stole the ball after coming back on defense and threw down a slamma-jamma at the other end.
Miami’s lead ballooned to 17 points with under fiver minutes to go, the result of a 20-3 run.
Representative of Miami’s season, the ‘Canes went cold at the end of their scoring run. Virginia Tech’s defensive double-teams had the ‘Canes struggling to find passing lanes. Too often they passed around the wing without leaving enough time on the shot-clock for a quality look.
The Hokies brought the game back to within seven with one minute remaing. A Brown dunk pushed the lead back to nine before Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson hit a three with 30 seconds left.
A six-point deficit with 27.5 seconds to go left plenty of opportunity for the Hokies.
It wasn’t to be, and Miami secured the victory with little drama.
BY THE nUMbers:
Reed led all scorers with 18 points on 4-8 shooting and was perfect on six shots from the line. He also had a game-high six assists. Newton followed Reed in scoring with 16 points on 7-15 shooting. Lawrence Jr. scored 12 points and was the only other cane – besides Reed – with multiple made three-pointers.
On the other end of the scoring spectrum was Brown. His ugly 1-12 night included two blown dunks and some wildly inaccurate layups. He was in perpetual self-check mode, only connecting on 1-12 shots and a bagel on five three point attempts. He didn’t get to the line once. This performance comes two games removed from a career high 30 point effort against then No. 9 North Carolina. Hopefully the garbage game is out of the way.
The defense make crucial stops at several junctures that turned the tide in their favor. They forced 15 turnovers on the night. Murphy, Brown, and Huell each had five rebounds while Huell contributed three blocks.
When it came to the various x-factors, the ‘Canes led the Hokies in bench points (25-18), points in the paint (38-36), and points off turnovers (22-16). Miami had 10-point advantages in each category three quarters of the way through the game.
The Hurricanes (15-7) play at No. 4 Louisville (19-5) Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.
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.