CORAL GABLES, FL. – The University of Miami basketball team registered a historic 78-76 victory over No. 25 Pittsburgh in front of a sold-out Watsco Center crowd Saturday night, clinching an ACC regular season co-championship.
Behind a team-high 18 points on 6-of-8 long-range shooting from sophomore guard Wooga Poplar, No. 16/15 Miami (24-6, 15-5 ACC) took down the Panthers in a de facto conference title game. In doing so, the Hurricanes earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament for the second time in program history.
The Hurricanes went scoreless for four-plus minutes midway through the first half and Pittsburgh (21-10, 14-6 ACC) logged an 8-0 run at the other end to take a 25-20 advantage with 7:48 on the timer. Miami, though, countered with a 13-2 surge in 2:51, capped with back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore guard Wooga Poplar, to take a 33-27 lead with 4:35 left in the frame.
Miami went on to take a four-point cushion, 42-38, into the break. It shot 11-of-13 (84.6 percent) from the free-throw line through 20 minutes, while the Panthers went just 2-of-3 (66.7 percent) at the stripe. The Hurricanes also had a 22-9 edge on the glass, including a 7-1 ledger on the offensive end that equated to a 16-2 margin in second-chance points.
The Hurricanes upped their lead to eight with 16:21 left in the half on Poplar’s fourth 3-pointer in as many attempts and then pushed it to nine, 57-48, with 13:54 to go. The lead remained nine, 66-57, with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining, but Pittsburgh hit a pair of 3-pointers to make it 66-63 with 6:06 on the clock.
Miami extended the lead back to seven, 76-69, with 1:03 left, but Pittsburgh cut it down to two, 78-76, on a 3-pointer by junior forward Blake Hinson with 13 seconds to play. Following a missed free throw at the other end, Panthers had a chance to win at the buzzer, but a 35-foot heave by Hinson bounced off the rim, sending the Miami bench and student section streaming onto the court in jubilation.
The Hurricanes led for 31-plus minutes, including for the entirety of the second half, and compiled a 42-20 margin on the glass. That included a 14-3 tally on the offensive end for a 25-7 final total in second-chance points. Both sides shot over 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from deep, but Miami had an 87.0 percent (20-of-23) ledger at the line compared the Panthers’ 73.3 percent (11-of-15) clip.
Poplar, who tripled his career high in 3-point makes, also pulled down five rebounds in the win. Fifth-year senior guard Jordan Miller amassed 17 points and eight rebounds, shooting 4-of-5 from the floor and 8-of-8 at the line in his final home game.
Third-year sophomore guard Norchad Omier recorded 15 points and a game-best 13 rebounds, the second mark giving him 196 total in ACC play this season to tie a program record. Third-year sophomore guard Nijel Pack and fourth-year junior guard Isaiah Wong each scored nine points, the latter notching a team-best four assists and finishing 7-of-9 from the stripe to reach 87 makes in ACC action this year, setting a new program high.
Hinson paced all scorers with 24 points, shooting 6-of-12 from 3-point range. Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande added 16 points, while Jamarius Burton had 13 and fellow graduate student guard Nelly Cummings chipped in 10 to go along with a game-high six assists.
The victory, in addition to claiming a banner for the Watsco Center, served as the 250th of head coach Jim Larrañaga’s stellar 12-year tenure at Miami.
Following a double-bye, the top-seeded Hurricanes open play Thursday at noon in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals in Greensboro, N.C., with their opponent still to be determined.
Alex Schwartz – Miami Hurricanes Athletics contributed to this recap