MBB Hosts Florida State in Matchup of ACC’s Top Two Teams

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – It would be hard to imagine a better return to
the court after a weeklong break than the University of Miami men’s
basketball team’s performance Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes dismantled national powerhouse North Carolina from
start to finish in an 85-57 victory, the Tar Heels’ largest conference
loss in nearly nine years.

Miami (14-4, 6-1 ACC) held a 27-point advantage at the break—tied for
the biggest mark against the Tar Heels in the last 25 years, per
ESPN’s Bryan Ives—and led by as many as 33 points in front of a
jam-packed student section.

“In terms of executing the offensive and defensive game plan, I don’t
think we could’ve done it any better. Sam Waardenburg did a great job
of fronting [Armando] Bacot,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said
after his second 25-point win over North Carolina. “Our guards did a
great job of—when they tried to throw it to him, they knocked it
loose, they stole it, or they took charge. When you’re able to
execute your defensive game plan, it often helps converting your
defense into offense and the guys did that at a very efficient level.
You’ve just got to give credit to Charlie Moore, getting the ball to
the right guy—Sam Waardenburg with the hot hand, Isaiah Wong with the
hot hand, Kam McGusty with the hot hand. Those guys just played
extremely well together.”

Moore dished out four assists, moving him three away from 500 as a
collegian, and facilitated a dazzling offensive attack that included a
trio of 20-point Miami scorers for the first time in over 16 years in
a regulation games.

Waardenburg, a multidimensional forward, scored a career-high 21
points, shooting 7-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
Wong, a dynamic offensive guard, dropped a season-high-tying 25
points, shooting 5-of-8 from deep to set a career best in makes, as
well as added a season-best eight rebounds.

McGusty, a do-it-all guard, rounded out the trio by tallying 20 points
to go along with four assists and a season-best four steals.

Moore, Waardenburg and McGusty are all sixth-year redshirt seniors,
while Wong is a third-year sophomore guard. Miami’s other starter is
Jordan Miller, a fourth-year junior guard. The five are in their
combined 25th season of college basketball.

“I think the experience of our starters has made a world of
difference—their physical, mental and emotional maturity,” Larrañaga
remarked. “They’re able to stay calm under a great deal of stress
during the game. Whether we’re ahead or behind, the guys have been
able to stay even keeled. I think that’s been a big reason why we’ve
played well at the end of close games and also how we were able to get
a lead and sustain that lead for 40 minutes [against North Carolina]
because we were very, very consistent at both ends.”

One element of Miami’s success defensively was its ability to force
turnovers. The Hurricanes logged 10 steals and North Carolina had 14
total giveaways, which Miami turned into 30 points.

It marked the fourth consecutive game the Hurricanes have posted
double-digit steals. Over their last five games, they have forced 78
turnovers, with 58 of them coming via steals.

“Well, I give a lot of credit to my coaches,” Larrañaga said of the
recent defensive performances. “This summer, we spent a lot of time
talking about our roster and what our strengths and weaknesses were.
We realized very quickly that we’re not a big, strong, physical team
with a lot of bulk and back-to-the-basket-type players. The ACC is
full of guys that are really good in around the basket … [and are]
skillful and big, 240 or bigger.

“So, we decided that we would need to scramble more,” he continued.
“Meaning [we would] trap, rotate, front the post and do a lot of
things to try to disrupt the opponent and force more turnovers because
our weakness was going to be our defensive rebounding. We wanted to
try to force turnovers to counteract that. We’ve been able to do that
so far in ACC play.”

One of those recent games in which Miami had 10-plus steals was Jan.
11 at Florida State in a classic rivalry thriller that came down to
the final second. Moore hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with seven seconds
left, but Florida State senior guard RayQuan Evans made two free
throws with 0.8 ticks left to give the homestanding Seminoles the win.

Just 11 days later, the Sunshine State foes are slated to face off
once again. In a matchup of the two teams atop the ACC standings,
Miami will host the Seminoles, who enter at 12-5 (5-2 ACC), Saturday
at 2 p.m. at the Watsco Center.

It is the first time since the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004-05
they will play a conference foe twice in the span of three games
during the regular season.

“Well, certainly, the teams are very familiar. When you play someone
early in the season and late in the season, a lot of things can
change,” Larrañaga said. “Right now, there are not a lot of changes.
We’ve played Carolina, they’ve played [Syracuse, Duke and North
Florida] and now we’ve got to play each other again. They’ll have a
chance to watch our game against North Carolina. We’ve already watched
their game against Duke. We recognize that Florida State is the
longest, tallest, and most athletic team in our league. They’re a very
hard matchup for us.”

The Seminoles are led by redshirt sophomore guard Caleb Mills’ 13.8
points and 2.9 assists per game. Miami, though, held him to four
points on 2-of-10 shooting, including a 0-of-5 mark from 3-point
range, in their first matchup.

The Hurricanes will look to replicate that defensive performance
against Mills, as well as some other areas of success in the teams’
second meeting. However, Larrañaga knows his team will have to make
improvements if it wants to come away with a rivalry victory.

“I thought we really did a very good job at both ends of the court and
we were very much in position to win the game with seven seconds to
go,” the two-time ACC Coach of the Year said. “What we learned a
little bit is that Florida State’s defense—they do a very good job of
switching. If we can improve any area, it would be our ability to
attack their switches properly. [We also will look] to make some
adjustments in maybe guarding them at the other end of the floor,
knowing that certain players really like to drive right and certain
players really like to shoot the three. We’ve got to recognize the
game plan and recognize why we tell someone to force a guy left when
his strong hand is really his right.”

Miami is 36-52 in its all-time series with Florida State, its most
common foe in program history. That includes a 28-16 mark on its home
court and an 8-14 ledger under Larrañaga.

Saturday, the Hurricanes will hope to see their fans who cheered them
on to a rousing victory Tuesday night return to the Watsco Center, as
they look to earn a ‘W’ in the intrastate rivalry.

“For the first time in a very long time—ever since I can remember—the
two Florida schools are one-two in the ACC right now,” Larrañaga said.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll end the season that way, but we would love for
our fans to turn out, knowing what a big game this is on Saturday at 2
o’clock.”

Saturday’s matinee matchup will be televised live on ESPN HERE, with
Dave O’Brien and Cory Alexander on the call. Joe Zagacki and Danny
Rabinowitz will have the radio broadcast on AM 560 Sports WQAM HERE.
Action can also be heard on 90.5 FM WVUM HERE and in Spanish on WMYM
990 AM HERE. In addition, live stats can be found HERE.

Following its matchup with the Seminoles, Miami hits the road to play
Virginia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg,
Va., live on ACC Network.

Single-game tickets for 2021-22 Miami men’s basketball games are still
on sale and can be purchased HERE or by calling the ticket office at
1-800-GO-CANES. For more details, dial that number or email
canestix@miami.edu.

RECAPPING CANES MONSTER WIN VS UNC

Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox

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