Miami MBB Comeback Bid Falls Short against Florida State, 61-60

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – In a matchup of the top two teams in the ACC
men’s basketball standings Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Watsco
Center, the University of Miami dropped a heartbreaking 61-60 decision
to Florida State, as it came one point shy of breaking the record for
the largest comeback in ACC history.

The Hurricanes trailed by 24 at halftime and by 26 early in the second
half, but stormed all the way back to cut the deficit to one in the
final minute. Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong, who scored 18 of
his game-high 22 points in the second half, missed a fadeaway
jump-shot at the buzzer that would have given Miami (14-5, 6-2 ACC)
the win in front of 7,972 fans, including 1,682 students.

“We didn’t do, really, anything very well in the first half and put
ourselves in a huge hole, but in the second half, the guys made the
adjustments,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They played smart,
they played hard, they played together, they didn’t give up, they
didn’t hang their heads and put us in a position to win the game.”

Florida State (13-5, 6-2 ACC) held Miami without a field goal for 8:19
of action midway through the first half and went on a 14-1 run to
build a 22-7 edge with 8:12 on the clock. The Hurricanes started just
3-of-15 from the floor and missed their first seven 3-pointers.

The Seminoles continued their excellent offense and lockdown defense,
eventually taking a 24-point lead, 43-19, into the locker room after a
buzzer-beating 3-pointer by redshirt senior forward Wyatt Wilkes. They
closed the frame on a 10-2 run and hit their last six field goals of
the session.

Miami, which posted a season-low point total in a half, shot just
6-of-23 (26.1 percent) in the session, including 1-of-12 (8.3 percent)
from deep. At the other end, Florida State went 18-of-32 (56.3
percent) overall and had just two turnovers, one of which came on the
opening possession.

The Seminoles scored to open the second half and take a game-high
26-point lead, but Miami answered with eight straight points in 90
seconds to make it 45-27 with 17:21 to go. The Hurricanes, who forced
nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second frame, extended
the surge to 15-4 to pull within 15 points, 49-34, with 12:58 on the
clock.

The Seminoles went back up by 19, but Miami continued to chip away,
posting an 18-4 run—including 12 straight points in 3:13—to trim the
deficit to five, 57-52, with 4:31 to go. After Florida State went back
up by nine with 2:40 on the clock, the Hurricanes countered once
again, eventually making it a one-possession game, 61-58, with 1:22
remaining on Wong’s second four-point play of the half.

Then, a fast-break alley-oop dunk by redshirt senior forward Sam
Waardenburg off a pass from Wong made it an 8-0 burst and a one-point
contest, 61-60, with 38 ticks left. The Hurricanes forced a shot-clock
violation at the other end and then called a timeout with 8.8 seconds
remaining to set up the final play, but Wong’s full-court drive ended
with a shot that bounced off the rim.

If Wong’s shot went in, the Hurricanes, who held Florida State without
a point in the last 2:40, would have surpassed the ACC record of a
23-point comeback recorded thrice.

“We didn’t put our heads down; we kept plugging away,” Larrañaga said
of the second half showing.  “One of the things is, if you start
playing the score, then you stop playing the game. It’s not the score,
it’s the execution of your plan. In the first half, we didn’t execute
very well. In the second half, we executed everything, to the point
that we were defending them well.

“What really hurt was they got three offensive rebounds [and then went
up by nine in the closing minutes] because we were scrambling, trying
to force a turnover,” he continued. “We weren’t able to do it, they
got those rebounds and it reduced the clock, but we still were down
one with the ball. It was [one heck of] a college basketball game.”

Wong, who surpassed 1,000 points as a collegian with his second bucket
of the game, shot 5-of-11 in the second half, including 3-of-5 from
deep, to go along with a 5-of-5 clip at the line, en route to the
22-point showing.

Sixth-year redshirt senior guards Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore
scored 12 points apiece for Miami, but finished a combined 8-of-23
from the floor, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers. Waardenburg added
eight points and a career-high-tying three blocks, all of which came
in the first half.

Redshirt sophomore guard Caleb Mills paced the Seminoles with 16
points on 7-of-9 shooting, but the Hurricanes did force him into seven
turnovers, the most of anyone they have played this season.

Redshirt senior guard Anthony Polite added 15 points, 13 of which came
on 5-of-5 shooting in the first half. No other Seminole tallied more
than seven points in the contest.

Miami, which went 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range in the
second half, finished the day with just a 37.0 percent clip (20-of-54)
from the field overall, its second-lowest mark of the year.

After committing seven turnovers and forcing just two in the first
half, the Hurricanes tallied just three of their own and forced 15 at
the other end in the second half, the latter the highest mark by a
Miami foe in a half in 2021-22.

The Hurricanes also held Florida State to 7-of-20 shooting (35.0
percent) after the break, including a 0-of-6 ledger from 3-point
range. Nonetheless, the Seminoles’ first-half performance proved
enough to give them their second one-point win over Miami in a 12-day
span.

The Hurricanes now hit the road for a trip to Blacksburg, Va., where
they face Virginia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m., live on ACC Network from
Cassell Coliseum.

Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox

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