In the end the box score will show a two-point victory against a conference rival in the bottom half of the ACC standings. In reality, it was a gritty performance against an arch rival—on the road, no less—where the Miami Hurricanes have consistently struggled.
Florida State made a late run; holding the Canes without a field goal for the game’s final 4:23—but two Ja’Quan Newton free throws and a defensive rebound by the sophomore guard were the difference as a Malik Beasleygame-winning, 3-point attempt sailed wide at the buzzer.
Sheldon McClellan led all scorers with 20 points, while Davon Reed dropped 14 for the Hurricanes and Angel Rodriguez was good for 11; including back-to-back three pointers midway through the second quarter after the Noles had tied the game, 52-52.
McClellan dropped a clutch bomb from beyond-the-arc with 4:28 remaining, pushing Miami’s lead to six. From there it was two free throws from Tonye Jekiri and the pair from Newton (on four attempts) that staved off an upset-minded Florida State.
Early on it was an 11-2 lead for the Hurricanes out the gate, but the Seminoles immediately answered with an eight-point run and back-to-back three-pointers. Florida State briefly led 15-14 before the Sunshine State rivals were locked in a 17-17 tie. Miami quickly responded with a 17-5 run and were up 34-22 with 1:49 remaining in the first half.
The Canes build their lead to 39-26 early in the second half before a 14-5 run tired the game 50-50 with 8:44 remaining.
Florida State had their chances late; including one final possession down two and a decent look at a game-winning three-pointer that would’ve been a dagger—especially considering the epic fashion in which Miami collapsed in Tallahassee last February.
The Canes led 36-25 at the half, but were stifled in the second; outscored 30-18 as the Noles overcame a 16-point first half deficit to steal the 55-54 upset over No. 23 Miami.
“Last year we were winning the whole game and then in the second half we let it slip and they ended up winning it,” said Rodriguez after the Canes held on Sunday. “This time we were poised down the stretch as our experience and maturity kicked in.”
Where Miami was seemingly looking for a more impressive win at Florida State, the fact that the Canes took care of business on the road at this point of the season cannot be overlooked.
2-3 on the road since January 16th—with a win at Boston College and losses to Virginia, Clemson and North Carolina State—safe to say Miami was somewhat in “must-win” territory on Sunday with seven regular season game remaining.
Road games in Chapel Hill, South Bend and Blacksburg are on the docket, as well as home showdowns against Virginia, Virginia Tech and Louisville. The stakes are raised as the Canes are second-ranked in the conference and need to notch some big wins to hang tough, leading up to the ACC Tournament starting March 8th in Washington D.C..
All journeys begin with that first step and Miami proved “road tough” on Sunday in Tallahassee. Florida State isn’t a powerhouse this season, but the Noles remain a feisty rival and it was a packed house at the Donald L .Tucker Civic Center, all cheering like hell for a Canes loss.
Instead, Miami prevailed, got to 20-4 on the season—the fourth 20-win season in the Jim Larranaga era—and is riding a high going into Wednesday night’s home showdown against Virginia Tech at The BUC.
This mid-week Canes versus Hokies showdown tips off at 9:00 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on WatchESPN, while Saturday’s road showdown at No. 5 North Carolina will be a CBS national game, with a 1:00 p.m. ET start time.