CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Facing an eight-point deficit with 11 minutes to play, the University of Miami men’s basketball team rallied back to defeat NC State, 91-83, Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
Down two players, including a starter, due to COVID protocols, Miami (10-3, 2-0 ACC) still managed to tally its sixth consecutive win and tally a season-best point total. Fourth-year junior guard Jordan Miller scored a season- and game-high 25 points for the Hurricanes in the thrilling victory.
“I was very impressed with NC State’s athletic ability—how fast they were, how high they jumped, how aggressive they were attacking the rim and getting to the offensive boards. It was a real concern at halftime. We were actually playing too fast for ourselves,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “In the second half, they were able to come out again and take control the first 10 minutes, but then we settled down. Isaiah Wong and Kam McGusty took control for us, offensively. Anthony Walker and Jordan Miller did a great job of screening and offensive rebounding and getting some interior baskets, which we didn’t get in the first half.
“[This was] a great team effort and an impressive game from start to finish,” Larrañaga continued. “It was such a terrific competition.”
The Hurricanes made five consecutive field goals early in the first half, including notching an 8-0 run that featured back-to-back 3-pointers and a dunk, to take a then-game-high eight-point lead, 25-17, with 9:58 on the clock. The Wolfpack, however, countered with six straight points of its own to quickly pull back within two.
NC State (7-6, 0-2 ACC) eventually took a one-point lead, 30-29, with 6:32 remaining in the frame. The teams played evenly the rest of the way and the Wolfpack went into the locker room ahead, 41-40.
Miami shot 7-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half and held NC State to just 39.5 percent (15-of-38) shooting overall, but the Wolfpack posted an 11-2 edge on the offensive glass and an 11-3 margin in second-chance points. Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty scored 16 first-half points for Miami, the highest total before the break by any Hurricane this season.
Coming out of the break, the Wolfpack quickly upped its lead to seven, opening the frame on an 8-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers to go up by seven, 49-42, with 17:50 to play. NC State went on to increase its lead to eight before Miami answered with an 8-1 surge to again make it a one-point game, 65-64, with 9:31 on the clock.
After the Wolfpack extended its advantage back to five, Miami scored eight straight points, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong, to take its first lead of the second half, 76-73, with 4:39 remaining.
NC State made a pair of free throws at the other end to get within one, but Miami countered with 10 straight points in just 2:15 to go up by 11, 86-75, with 1:45 to play. The Wolfpack never got any closer than eight the rest of the way, as the Hurricanes controlled the closing minutes for the eight-point win.
Miller’s 25 points, which tied the third-highest total of his career and nearly doubled his prior season best of 13, came on 9-of-16 shooting, both marks season highs and the latter one shy of his career best.
The Middleburg, Va., native went 4-of-6 from deep and 3-of-5 from the line, as well as notched five rebounds and two blocks in 37 minutes of action, the latter also a season high in his first year at The U.
“He’s been getting more confident and more comfortable just playing with the guys. The better he plays, the better we are,” Larrañaga said. “Basketball is pretty simple; you’ve got to put the ball in the basket, you’ve got to keep the other team from putting it in the basket. Jordan is doing both.”
McGusty finished with 20 points and a co-game-high 11 rebounds, the latter figure one below his career best. He shot 6-of-11 from the field, 2-of-3 on 3-pointers and 6-of-7 at the stripe, adding a season-best five assists.
Wong totaled 19 points, including 15 in the second half and 14 in a sub-seven-minute span from 10:09 to 3:18 on the clock. The Piscataway, N.J., native, who shot 7-of-13, also chipped in five rebounds and four assists.
“At one of the timeouts midway through the second half, I reminded Isaiah of how well he played at NC State, against these guys, last year,” Larrañaga said. “I told him, ‘This is your time. You know how good you are. I know how good you are. You need to have the ball in your hands and take charge.’ And that’s what he did, he and Kam.”
Third-year sophomore forward Anthony Walker also scored in double figures. Coming off the bench, he posted 11 points, all in the second half, and went 4-of-4 from the floor.
Senior forward Jericole Hellems paced NC State with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the setback. Redshirt sophomore guard Dereon Seabron, the ACC’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder, finished with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double.
Freshman guard Terquavion Smith also totaled 14 points for the Wolfpack, while redshirt senior guard Thomas Allen added 13 on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with seven boards.
Miami finished the night with a season-best 55.4 percent clip (31-of-56) from the field, while its 31 makes matched its second-highest total. In the second half alone, the Hurricanes shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28), their best mark in any frame all year.
Additionally, Miami shot a season-best 52.6 percent (10-of-19) from long range, with the 10 makes matching its third-highest mark of the year.
At the other end, the Hurricanes held NC State to 41.7 percent shooting (30-of-72) overall and a 29.6 percent ledger (8-of-27) on 3-pointers, counteracting the Wolfpack’s 41-32 edge on the glass that included an 18-6 margin offensively.
The Hurricanes resume play on the first day of 2022, as they host Wake Forest Saturday at 6 p.m., live on ESPNU.