Miami’s recent loss to Georgia Tech was ugly. The Canes controlled the game, but faded late, letting the Yellow Jackets tip in the final game-winning shot, similar to what Miami did at North Carolina State earlier in the season.
Most-frustrating, the blown thirteen-point lead was the result of the Canes getting away from what has been their signature all season; top-notch defense. During Miami’s fourteen ACC wins, opponents were shooting .369 but in three recent losses, that number jumped to .525, as Wake Forest, Duke and now Georgia Tech put up some serious points.
All that said, Miami must only focus on Clemson. Not gaudy statistics from a run where the Canes have lost three of four, nor any big-headedness as a result of a fourteen-game win stream from late-December to mid-February. That run was a result of hard-nosed defensive play and these three losses came courtesy of letting up. It’s that simple.
Jim Larranaga has done a masterful job with this team and has a team full of talented seniors who should come back around. Clemson is simply not a good team and Miami is a ‘two-touchdown’ favorite today. The Tigers lost late to the Canes on February 17th, 45-43, in an ugly, low-scoring affair where UM buried a few shots late to secure the last-second victory.
Clemson hasn’t won a game since.
0-4, with losses to Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Boston College. The Tigers are 13-16 and 5-12 in ACC play – two of those five conference wins coming against Georgia Tech, ironically.
Clemson has averaged 60 points per game their past four outings, so Miami has a clue what this squad has done lately, and with Larranaga’s math, he likes his Canes scoring upwards of 72 per game. Should all go according to play, UM should earn a nice double-digit victory. Nets should be cut down by the outright ACC regular season champion and Miami should advance to 24-6 on the regular season, going into the conference tourney on a high – and with a first round bye – next week.
Unfortunately numbers don’t tell you a thing about psyche, attitude or motivation. Where is this team’s collective head at? On the surface, it appears this team has a sense of invincibility for the better part of this season. Miami was bulletproof.
A run of blowout wins, or nail-biters where the Canes always seemed to get it done at the end. North Carolina State. Clemson. Virginia. A game-changing play always developed and the shot always seemed to fall for the good guys.
Miami ran into a buzzsaw at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons got hot while the Hurricanes lacked that intensity which sparked many a comeback in the past. As soon as the Canes pulled to within a few, the Deacs went on a 12-0 run and closed it out.
A home game against a sub-par Virginia Tech squad put the Hokies back in their place and gave the Canes a full head of steam going into the showdown of the year in Durham. The match-up proved to be a heavyweight fight, with Miami going toe to toe with Duke.
Ryan Kelly had the hottest hand of his career and the Canes missed on two game-tying three point attempts in the final seconds. The Blue Devils got the win, but UM left head held high, knowing it was arguably the better ‘team’, as Kelly’s miracle performance proved the lone difference.
Miami can pretty much make sense of every loss these past few months – two of these three recent ones, and even going back to Hawai’i and losses to Arizona and Indiana State, where huge fatigue kicked in.
But falling to a below-average Georgia Tech team at home, where you’ve been undefeated all season? ACC regular season champs on the line? Thirteen-point second-half lead where all you had to do was put it away?
With a wounded Clemson team headed south and the regular season season conference title on the line, can Miami capitalize? Can this team focus, show up hungry, eliminate mistakes and d-up – as defense must remain this team’s lifeblood going into the post-season?
Tip-off coming soon. Stay tuned. An outright ACC title could, and should, be just around the corner.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.