ALBANY, N.Y. – Trailing by eight with under four-and-a-half minutes to go, the fifth-seeded University of Miami basketball team stormed back to defeat No. 12-seeded Drake, 63-56, Friday night at MVP Arena.
Third-year sophomore guard Nijel Pack paced all players with a game-high 21 points, including the game-winning jump-shot, for No. 16/15 Miami (26-7, 15-5 ACC) in the comeback victory.
The Hurricanes missed their first nine shots on the way to beginning 1-of-14 and 3-of-22 from the floor. Despite the slow start, Miami held a 19-18 lead with four-and-a-half minutes to go in the half.
After Drake (27-8, 15-5 MVC) went up by four, the Hurricanes evened the score at 25 with 2:26 on the clock. The Bulldogs then scored the final five points of the frame and took a 30-25 edge into the locker room. Despite shooting just 7-of-30 compared to Drake’s 12-of-26 mark, Miami had a 6-0 edge on the offensive glass and went 5-of-9 on 3-pointers, including a 3-of-6 clip from sophomore guard Wooga Poplar.
The Hurricanes made three of their first six field goals and each of their first four free throws to begin the second half, taking a 36-34 lead with 16:05 left. Drake countered with a 10-1 surge to go up by seven, 44-37, with 12:27 to play.
Miami responded with seven straight points in 80 seconds, part of a 10-2 burst that created a 47-46 advantage with 8:21 remaining. Drake then scored nine in a row in just 2:20, including six on back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard/forward Sardaar Calhoun, to earn a game-best eight-point edge, 55-47, with 5:40 to go.
From that point on, the Hurricanes took full control. Miami went on a 16-1 run over the final four-and-a-half minutes, with Pack’s go-ahead basket with 1:00 left giving the team a lead it would not relinquish.
Despite shooting a season-low 30.4 percent (17-of-56) from the field, Miami won behind superb free-throw shooting and offensive rebounding. The Hurricanes registered a 79.3 percent (23-of-29) mark at the stripe and a 9-2 edge on the glass that led to a 9-2 margin in second-chance points. They also limited Drake to 34.5 percent (10-of-29) shooting in the second half.
Pack’s 21-point performance came on 7-of-15 shooting, including a 3-of-7 ledger beyond the arc. He added four rebounds and two steals, while committing no turnovers.
Poplar totaled 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting to go along with two steals to match Pack and co-lead all players. Third-year sophomore forward Norchad Omier, who returned to action after suffering a right ankle injury in the ACC Tournament semifinals, recorded 12 points and a game-best 14 rebounds. His five offensive boards over doubled Drake’s total as a team and he went 8-of-9 on free throws.
For Drake, senior forward Darnell Brodie amassed 20 points and nine boards, shooting 9-of-14 from the field. The rest of his team, though, went just 13-of-41 (31.7 percent), including sophomore guard/forward Tucker DeVries, the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, finishing 1-of-13 overall and 1-of-11 from deep.
Calhoun scored 12 points on 4-of-5 long-range shooting, while graduate student guard Roman Penn, a Siena transfer playing in his former home arena, tallied 11 points, six rebounds and a game-best seven assists.
The Hurricanes, whose seven-point final margin was their largest of the night, will now make an NCAA Tournament Round of 32 appearance in back-to-back years for the second time in program history. They are set to face either fourth-seeded Indiana, ranked No. 21/19, or No. 13-seeded Kent State at a to-be-determined time Sunday at MVP Arena.
Alex Schwartz – Miami Hurricanes Athletics contributed to this recap