Syracuse weathers Miami run to remain unbeaten

#22 Donnavan Kirk fights off a Syracuse defender during Saturday's men's basetball game. The canes lost 52-64.
#22 Donnavan Kirk fights off a Syracuse defender during Saturday's men's basetball game. The canes lost 52-64.
#22 Donnavan Kirk fights off a Syracuse defender during Saturday’s men’s basetball game. The canes lost 52-64.

Exactly three weeks had passed since the Miami Hurricanes blew a 5-point lead with 6 minutes left against undefeated Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in New York.

Back then, all signs pointed to a major upset on the road, but the Orange overwhelmed Miami late and outscored Miami 14-4 in the final minutes.

The Canes on Saturday played host to No. 2 Syracuse for the first time in more than a decade. Miami threatened the still-unbeaten visitors, tying the game at 49-49 with five minutes to play.

And then the Orange took over again.

This time Syracuse (19-0, 6-0 ACC) outscored Miami (10-9, 2-5 ACC) 15-3 in the closing minutes for a 64-52 win in front of a sellout crowd at the BankUnited Center.

“I thought that was a very, very good college basketball game,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “Right up to the last maybe minute and a half I thought we were right where we needed to be, where we wanted to be, but Syracuse is that good. Tyler Ennis is that good. And I told our players, this is when he starts to attack – six, seven minutes left in the game. He did it up at their place when we played them. He did it against Pittsburgh. He did it at Boston College. He’s just an outstanding freshman.”

Ennis jumpstarted Syracuse’s late run with a jumper and finished the game with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. The Orange were able to take it to the Canes inside, scoring 24 points in the paint and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds.

The final score, however, was not indicative of how closely contested the game was.

“I really didn’t think that they played that well in the second half,” Miami freshman Davon Reed said. “But one thing that they do excellent is closing out down the stretch. They really do a good job of having poise down the stretch, something we try to emphasize.”

Reed was the high-point man for Miami, scoring 16 off the bench in another economical shooting performance. He converted more than 60 percent of his shots from the field, 75 percent from 3-point range and was perfect from the free throw line.

Final score aside, Miami showed some fight when the Canes – down by 18 with eight minutes left in the first half – battled back to close the gap to five points at halftime.

“We just didn’t want it to be another Duke game where we’re pretty much out of the game early, so we fought back,” said senior guard Rion Brown, who finished with 13 points. “I think we got to like 18 or 20 and we really started playing, started locking down. The main thing, we started making them miss.”

The Hurricanes shot a whopping 52.9 percent from deep and contested shots on defense, with Syracuse shooting 37 percent from the field in the second half. Larranaga decided, once again, to try to beat the Orange at their own game by playing zone defense.

“When they made the decision to play zone, I just think they’re a very difficult team to play against,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

Next, Miami will travel to College Park, Md., to take on Maryland (11-9, 3-4 ACC) Wednesday night.