Hurricanes downed by Cavaliers, drop second straight

Sixth-year guard Kameron McGusty dribbles up the court in Miami's game against North Carolina in the Watsco Center on Jan. 18, 2022. Photo credit: Alex Carnochan

Miami (16-7, 8-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) came into Saturday’s contest at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia looking to bounce right back from a disappointing four-point home loss it suffered at the hands of Notre Dame just three days earlier.

The Virginia Cavaliers (14-9, 8-5 ACC) had other ideas, shooting a lights-out 60% from the field and 53% from 3-point range on their way to a 71-58 victory.

“We struggled defensively to keep pressure on them,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I thought we did a good job early, but we clearly were not able to defend them the way we would’ve needed to.”

Miami leaned on its defense early, generating five steals to jump out to a 10-7 lead. Unfortunately for them, Virginia guard Armaan Franklin responded with a 7-0 scoring run of his own, taking a lead that the Cavaliers would never give back.

The Hurricanes were not able to make the necessary shots to get back into the game once the Cavaliers took control; they shot just 4-for-17 from beyond the arc despite plenty of open looks.

“Against Virginia, because they pack it in so much, and we’re not a post-up team anyway, you got to make threes,” Larrañaga said. “At 4-for-17, it’s not very good.”

The players who contributed those four 3-pointers were the Hurricanes’ top two scorers on the night: sixth-year senior guards Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty.

The two veterans gave Miami its biggest spark of the outing by draining back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Virginia’s lead to four, 30-26, near the end of the first half, with McGusty’s score following Moore’s.

Before the mini-barrage from the two seniors, Miami was 0-for-10 from 3-point range. Moore and McGusty had given the Hurricanes hope that their experience would pull them through a tough start to a resilient road victory.

That hope was torn away from them when Virginia led 35-26 at halftime following a dunk by sophomore big man Kadin Shedrick and a backbreaking 3-pointer at the buzzer by Franklin.

The second half was all Cavaliers as they clinically extended their lead, frustrating the Hurricanes by playing the game at an exceptionally slow pace and executing well on both ends of the floor.

One statistic, in particular, was an eye-opener to the Hurricanes’ struggles: for the first time ever in ACC play, Miami failed to attempt a single free throw.

“That kind of is a telltale story that we’re not getting to the basket and getting to the foul line like we did earlier in league play,” Larrañaga said of his team’s lack of free throw attempts.

Although Miami was dispatched with relative comfort on Saturday evening, the game was not without positives to take away from it.

McGusty and Moore, with 21 and 17 points, respectively, showed that they can shoulder a large chunk of the scoring load when the team is not clicking.

Defensively, junior guard Jordan Miller was the Hurricanes’ standout, tying Moore for the most steals in a game this season with seven.

Miami will hope to get a few more players going and end their two-game skid on Wednesday when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets come into the Watsco Center for a 7 p.m. tip.

“I don’t think there’s anything we have to do differently,” Larrañaga said of his team’s position going forward. “You drop one or two in a row, three in a row, whatever it might be, you then got to regroup and bounce back and figure out how to get the next one”.