ATLANTA (CBSMiami/AP) — The Miami Hurricanes won’t go gently into that good night just yet. Thursday night, the Canes moved on in the ACC Tournament by ending Georgia Tech’s season.
Tech’s final score of 36 points was one of the worst performances in the history of the ACC Tournament, but to Miami’s coaching staff; the defensive display was a thing of beauty.
Rion Brown sparked Miami from its offensive woes with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Hurricanes ripped off an 18-0 run to bury the woeful Yellow Jackets 54-36 Thursday night in the final game of the opening round.
Georgia Tech ended a dismal first season under coach Brian Gregory with its lowest-scoring game ever in the tournament. Also, it was easily the worst offensive showing by any team in the tournament during the shot-clock era.
“Oh, you thought it was ugly?” quipped Miami coach Jim Larranaga.
But it was good enough for the Hurricanes (19-11) to keep alive their NCAA hopes.
“We just talked about relaxing and being ourselves,” Larranaga said. “Our defense in the second half created our offense, and it picked up from there.”
Miami wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, shooting just 33 percent. Shane Larkin was the Hurricanes’ top scorer with a mere 12 points, while Durand Scott added 11 and Brown had 10.
But the Yellow Jackets took offensive ineptitude to a whole new level. This was their lowest-scoring game since a 38-36 loss to Auburn on Feb. 7, 1961. It was the third time this season Georgia Tech was held below 40 points at Philips Arena, its temporary home while the campus arena undergoes renovations. Already, there was a 70-38 loss to Virginia and a 56-37 setback against Clemson.
A house of horrors, it was. The Yellow Jackets can’t wait to get back home.
Mfon Udofia scored 13 points, Brandon Reed chipped in with 11, but only three of their teammates even made the scoresheet, combining for a not-so-grand total of a dozen points. Georgia Tech made 14 of 44 shots (32 percent) and turned it over 20 times.
Gregory, who took over a once-proud program that fell on hard times under previous coach Paul Hewitt, knew his first team was likely to struggle. He commended a group of players who were clearly short on talent for at least giving all they had.
“We had some flaws, no doubt about it, that we need to work on,” Gregory said. “But the effort was not flawed, even when we didn’t play well over the last month of the season.”
Both teams struggled through the opening half, combining to make 14 of 51 shots and turning it over 15 times. That played into the hands of Georgia Tech, which came in with the ACC’s second-worst offense at just 61 points a game. The Yellow Jackets actually went to the locker room with a 20-19 lead, glad to hunker down and make every possession a challenge.
But the Hurricanes finally woke up, going ahead for good when Larkin led a fast break and passed off to Brown, who spotted up for a 3 that made it 29-27. Then Larkin came up with a steal, raced down the court and spotted Brown, lurking again behind the arc. Another trey. Another swish. The Hurricanes never let up from there, making 11 of their last 20 shots.
“We were very good defensively throughout the game,” Larranaga said. “In the second half, we were able to get some open-court baskets. Shane Larkin was just terrific in getting a couple of steals and a couple of layups and giving us some momentum.”
Miami advanced to face its state rival, No. 17 Florida State, in Friday’s quarterfinals. The sixth-seeded Hurricanes are hoping to push their way into NCAA consideration with an impressive showing in Atlanta.
This didn’t qualify as impressive, but at least it was a win.
Now, bring on the Seminoles, who split with Miami during the regular season, each team winning at home.
Larranaga expects a better showing by his team at the offensive end.
“It’s kind of funny because in practice we were very, very loose and very sharp and shooting the ball extremely well,” he said. “It’s the excitement. It’s not so much the pressure. You start thinking too much and when you start thinking too much, your feet slow down. In the second half, we were much better.