Miami made a few too many mistakes to win on Saturday afternoon.
Miami took on Clemson Saturday afternoon looking for their first ACC win of the season so far. The Tigers were 7-1 coming into the game and have been one of the most surprising teams in the ACC. The Hurricanes were hoping to show how competitive they can be this season after narrowly losing to Virginia Tech with many of their key players back from injury.
Miami spent much of the first half trailing the Tigers and were down by as much as 12 when the score was 21-9 with 11:47 left in the first half. However, the Hurricanes started to get back into the game as time went on. A nice shot from Harlond Beverly got the Hurricanes started on a run that got the score down to 21-15 with 9:41 remaining until the break.
Two free throws from Elijah Olaniyi brought Miami to within six points, and after the Tigers made a nice offensive play a Matt Cross three brought the Hurricanes to within five.
The Hurricanes continued to outplay Clemson at the end of the half using the momentum Cross gave them. Kam McGusty brought Miami within four before Olaniyi scored three points over two possessions to cut the Clemson lead to just one. Aamir Simms extended the Tigers lead to three with a layup but it was too late to stop the run as Matt Cross made a three to tie the game with two minutes left until the break.
As the game neared halftime both teams struggled to score until Earl Timberlake made a layup that gave the Hurricanes a 34-32 lead at halftime after an incredible first-half comeback.
The second half was far more back and forth, with neither team leading by more than three points for almost the entire first 15 minutes of the half. Both teams played well over this stretch. The Hurricanes, in particular used perimeter shooting today, which has been a struggle all season. Miami shot 41.2% from three-point range on the afternoon and that was one of the main reasons they were in the game until the very end.
Each team struggled to try to control the game until a foul on Nick Honor gave him three free throws that he converted to give Clemson a 59-55 lead. Earl Timberlake made a three on the other end to pull Miami to within one, but the Tigers ran their offense quickly to catch Miami unprepared, which was costly at times for Miami this afternoon. As a result the Tigers led 61-58 with 4:07 left in the game.
A costly travel from Earl Timberlake out of a timeout gave Clemson a chance for a two possession lead and was the Hurricanes 14th turnover of the afternoon. Fortunately, Miami played good defense on the other end to prevent a score. Kam McGusty then made an incredible play to go up and under the basket for a layup and an and-one; which he converted to tie the score at 61 with just three minutes left.
Another great defensive possession from Miami gave the Hurricanes a chance to take the lead with under three minutes left in the game. Elijah Olaniyi took advantage with a nice drive for a layup that gave Miami a 63-31 lead with 2:11 left in the game. The Hurricanes continued to play suffocating defense, with another stop on the defensive end. Isaiah Wong made another smart offensive play to draw a foul and he made both free throws to extend Miami’s lead to four at 65-61.
Clemson finally put together a nice offensive possession with about a minute left in the game that resulted in a three to make the score 65-64 with 1:05 left. Then, another costly travel, this time from Olaniyi, gave the Tigers the ball back with a chance to take the lead with just 40 seconds left.
Aamir Simms made a great play on Clemson’s last possession to make a tough jumper and give the Tigers a 66-65 lead with 12 seconds left. The Hurricanes turned the ball over again on their last sustained possession, their 16th turnover of the game, in what ended up being the play that cost the Hurricanes the game. Miami ended up with a chance for an inbound with 0.3 seconds left, but Isaiah Wong missed the last-ditch attempt at a tip in from the paint and the Hurricanes lost.
Simms was the Tigers’ best player of the afternoon. Miami couldn’t contain him as he scored 25 while adding seven rebounds and four assists. For the Hurricanes Isaiah Wong was excellent again, scoring 13 points while adding five rebounds. Freshmen Matt Cross and Earl Timberlake were excellent as well, combining for 20 points on the afternoon.
This is a brutal loss that drops Miami to 4-4 and 0-3 in the ACC on the season. The Hurricanes should not have lost this game, but a bad last 40 seconds of rebounding, clock management, and defense cost the Hurricanes a chance at a much needed win.
The Hurricanes next scheduled game is Tuesday against the North Carolina Tar Heels at the Watsco Center. UNC is 5-4 and has struggled so far this season so Miami will hope to take advantage and get their first conference win of the year.