Hurricanes fend off Demon Deacons in ACC Tournament

Anthony Lawrence II drives for a layup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Feb. 6 at the Watsco Center. Miami defeated Notre Dame 62-46.

The Miami Hurricanes live to play another day in Charlotte, North Carolina.

No. 12 seed Miami fought off a late second-half charge from No. 13 seed Wake Forest to emerge with a 79-71 victory in the opening round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Tuesday afternoon at the Spectrum Center.

“March Madness. It’s win and advance, lose and go home,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We’re just happy we won. I thought it was a very hard-fought game by both teams.”

For a moment, it appeared the Hurricanes (14-17, 5-13 ACC) might squander a late double-digit lead to the Demon Deacons (11-20, 4-14 ACC) for the second time in as many weeks.

Miami led 68-56 with 5:32 to play, but Wake Forest surged on a 10-2 burst to slice the Hurricanes’ lead down to four with four minutes remaining.

However, the Demon Deacons missed six of their final seven shot attempts and Miami knocked down free throws down the stretch to secure a matchup with fifth-seeded Virginia Tech Wednesday afternoon.

UM junior guard DJ Vasiljevic led the charge with a game-high 21 points, one shy of matching his career high, and sunk four 3-pointers. Senior Anthony Lawrence II continued his recent hot streak, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double in his last six outings.

The pair provided a boost on a day where Chris Lykes and Ebuka Izundu struggled.

Lykes notched 13 points and four assists, but committed five turnovers. Izundu, who tallied just five points and three rebounds, was in foul trouble throughout the contest, eventually fouling out after playing only 22 minutes.

Zach Johnson picked up some of the slack when Lykes dealt with foul issues of his own. The redshirt senior registered 12 points and matched Lykes’ four assists.

“When [Lykes] was out, that leaves it up to [Lawrence, Vasiljevic] and Zach Johnson to do all of the ball handling and I thought we were doing offensively really well,” Larrañaga said.

Wake Forest finished with five players in double-figures, led by Brandon Childress and Jaylen Hoard’s 16 points. Chaundee Brown added 13 points and Isaiah Mucius and Torry Johnson both chipped in 10 points.

The Demon Deacons turned the ball over 15 times and Miami capitalized, scoring 19 points off of Wake Forest’s miscues.

The Hurricanes will face No. 16 Virginia Tech in round two of the conference tournament. The Hokies have soundly defeated Miami twice this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Spectrum Center.

“People underestimate the lower-seeded teams,” Vasiljevic said. “One they get going on a run, it’s hard to stop, so we’re going to try and do that this tournament.”