CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Down a starter and facing a 14-point first-half deficit, the University of Miami men’s basketball team stormed back to defeat Georgia Tech, 79-70, Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
Playing without fourth-year junior guard Jordan Miller, the Hurricanes outscored the Yellow Jackets by 23 points over the final 25-plus minutes to end a two-game skid. Sixth-year redshirt senior forward Sam Waardenburg paced Miami (17-7, 9-4 ACC) with 19 points in the win, the team’s third when trailing by 14-plus in 2021-22.
“Well, in the first half, I thought Georgia Tech did a great job of disrupting our offense. So, we fell behind,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said after the 100th ACC regular season win of his storied tenure. “We had to figure out a way to get back in it. We chose one offense versus every defense they play and once we did that and everybody knew what we were running and what we were looking for, we were able to score the ball much better. That helped create better defense for us because now we were scoring and setting the defense, rather than missing and having to scramble back.”
The Hurricanes forced five turnovers in the opening four-plus minutes and made four of their first five shots to grab an early 8-2 lead after just 4:24. Georgia Tech (10-13, 3-9 ACC) answered with a 30-10 run to go up by 14, 32-18, with 5:56 on the clock after making six of its first nine 3-pointers compared to an 0-of-6 mark for Miami. The stretch included both 9-0 and 7-0 surges.
Larrañaga’s team countered with eight points in a row—bookended with 3-pointers by Waardenburg—in just 101 seconds to make it 32-26 with 3:57 to play in the half. After a Georgia Tech basket, Miami scored six consecutive points in 59 seconds—giving it six straight made field goals and four straight made free throws—to up its run to 14-2 and pull within two, 34-32, with 1:53 to go in the half.
The Yellow Jackets took a two-point edge, 36-34, into the locker room behind 13 points from freshman guard Dallan “Deebo” Coleman who scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including a 3-of-3 clip from deep, in the first 18-and-a-half minutes. Waardenburg tallied 12 first-half points at the other end for Miami.
Third-year sophomore guard Isaiah Wong opened the second-half scoring in just 16 seconds, leveling the game at 36. Miami, soon thereafter, went in front, 41-39, with 18:15 to go, making it a 23-7 extended run.
The Yellow Jackets regained a four-point lead, 56-52, with 9:59 to go, but Miami responded with 11 consecutive points to take a then-game-best seven-point edge, 63-56, with 6:07 remaining. The Hurricanes held Georgia Tech without a point for 4:56.
Miami went on to put the game out of reach on a 3-pointer by sixth-year redshirt senior guard Charlie Moore with 3:12 to go that upped the cushion to 11 points, 72-61. That made it a 20-5 extended burst for the home team, en route to the nine-point triumph and a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets.
“It was a great comeback,” Larrañaga said. “The second half, we got to the foul line a ton and reduced our turnovers.”
Waardenburg’s 19 points came on a 5-of-8 clip from the floor, including a 3-of-4 ledger from deep in a season-high 38 minutes. He added a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the stripe, matching his career high in makes and his season high in attempts. The Auckland, New Zealand, native added co-game-highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (five), the former equaling his season high and the latter tying his career best.
Sixth-year redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty scored 17 points, all in the second half, and paced all players with a season-high-tying four steals. Wong tallied 14 points and seven rebounds, the latter one shy of his top mark this season. Moore posted 13 points on a stellar 5-of-6 clip from the field and co-led all players with five assists, despite battling foul trouble.
Third-year sophomore forward Anthony Walker, who started in place of Miller, posted 12 points and a season-high-tying eight rebounds in a co-season-best 26 minutes. It marked the second home game in a row he posted that line, while he also shot 6-of-10 from the floor this time to match his career high in makes.
“Anthony Walker has really spent most of this year coming off the bench,” Larrañaga said. “He did a great job of starting, scoring 12 points, getting some rebounds and blocking a shot.”
Miami had five players score in double figures for the second time this season, while freshman guard Bensley Joseph added four points, a career-best six rebounds and a career-high four assists in a career-best 28 minutes.
Senior guard Michael Devoe, the ACC’s third-leading scorer, finished with 20 points, but Miami held him to 6-of-15 shooting from the floor, including a 2-of-7 mark from deep. Senior guard/forward Jordan Usher added 16 points, while Coleman scored 15 and junior guard Kyle Sturdivant chipped in with 12.
Senior forward Khalid Moore, who paced Georgia Tech with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, in the teams’ Jan. 29 matchup in Atlanta, fouled out with zero points on two shots.
The Hurricanes recorded 10 steals and forced 18 turnovers, while committing just 12, resulting in an 18-6 edge in fast-break points. Miami, one game after becoming the second team in ACC history to not attempt a free throw in a contest, also went 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) at the line.
The Hurricanes now head to Winston-Salem, N.C., for their first of two straight road games, slated for Saturday at 3 p.m. against Wake Forest, live on RSN from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Alex Schwartz – Miami Hurricanes Athletics contributed to this recap