In a game that was important for both teams, the Miami Hurricanes were able to escape a potential upset from the Virginia Cavaliers. Miami came into the game ranked second in the country and first in the ACC, but the question of whether they would be able to perform in the spotlight still remained. On the other end of the court, Virginia came into this matchup needing another signature win to get off the bubble after an uncharacteristic 93-81 loss to UNC. The loss to UNC was not as shocking as how the Cavaliers lost. After playing sound defense all year and limiting most opponents to less than 60 points per game, Tony Bennet’s team lost their way against UNC. Although in a losing effort, Virginia was able to return to some of the strength it showed in earlier ACC matchups by playing well defensively and at a slower half court tempo against Miami.
The game started out as a track meet early with Miami going 5/5 on field goals and it looked as though the game would end as unfavorably as the UNC result, but Virginia was able to slow the game down to their pace midway through the first half. The Wahoos forced Miami to hit outside shots by doubling the post and Miami was unable to respond going 1-7 from 3-point land. Virginia was able to end the half trailing 24-22 and the Cavaliers were able to stick with Miami throughout the second half.
After UVA took its first lead midway through the second half, Miami responded with a huge 8-0 run and the Hurricanes pushed to a faster up tempo style. Coach Bennet reacted by taking a smart time out and his team was able to cut the lead to 4 after a huge 3 pointer by Paul Jespersen. The game went back and forth after the 6 minute mark and Miami held onto a 3 point lead with 17.2 seconds left. Then, freshman Evan Nolte hit the biggest 3-point shot of his career to tie the game at 50. With one last chance to win the game, Miami was able to capitalize by going inside and a lapse of concentration from the Cavaliers led to Reggie Johnson hitting an open layup to win the game.
Despite the loss, Virginia showed signs of a team that deserved to be in the tournament. Their play on the road against the second ranked team in the country resembled the UVA that beat Wisconsin in Madison and not the UVA that lost to ODU and GMU earlier in the year. The lock down defense was back and Joe Harris continued right where he left off against UNC by providing Virginia with most of its offensive production. Miami’s key was Reggie Johnson who was able to get a few crucial layups in the paint despite Virginia’s attempt to double-team him. The Cavaliers have a must-win coming up against the 4-9 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before Bennet and his team host the number 6 Duke Blue Devils on the 28th.