With less than 30 seconds in the game, sophomore guard Nijel Pack hit a step–back three–pointer to seal the Miami Hurricanes’ come–from–behind victory against Rutgers, 68-61.
After trailing by 11 in the second half, the ‘Canes went on a 33-15 run to win the annual ESPN ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
It’s Miami’s fourth straight win in the event, which the ACC/SEC Challenge will replace next year. The last time that Miami lost in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge was against Rutgers, 57-54, at the Watsco Center in 2018.
“Those two teams battled at a high level, and I’m very proud of our guys. [Rutgers] won some battles, we won some battles, but we won the war,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said.
The ‘Canes were aggressive out of the gate and looked to push the pace with every offensive opportunity. Miami’s defense created three turnovers in the first five minutes as well. Rutgers ended up with 15 turnovers in the game, which led to 16 Hurricane points.
However, a dry spell followed as Miami scored no field goals in four successive minutes, allowing Rutgers to get back in it before the half. The Scarlet Knights led 34-33 at halftime.
In the first half, Miami had much success in the paint, scoring 24 of its 33 points there. Rutgers, however, shot an outstanding 5-9 from three-point range, while the ‘Canes went just 1-9.
The beginning of the second half was dominated by Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights scored nine straight points on easy looks to extend their lead to 43-33. A couple buckets on both sides put the score at 46-35 with 16:46 in the second half, the largest deficit of the game for Miami.
However, the Hurricanes would not be deterred. They proceeded to stay composed on every single possession as they responded with a 12-2 run in five minutes that allowed them back into the game.
With a little more than one minute remaining and the score tied at 61, the ‘Canes called a timeout and drew up a play that would break the deadlock: a Norchad Omier fadeaway jumper.
“We drew up a play in that timeout, but we also drew up another play that was to be used if [Rutgers] defended in the 2-3 zone defense,” Larranaga described. “On that possession, they gave us that defensive look, and we were ready.”
The ‘Canes also seemed to feed off the energy in the Watsco Center. Although it was only Wednesday night, the building was full of ‘Canes fans who made sure they could be heard.
“Did you see them?!” Larranaga said. “It’s been a long time in the making, but we’re really building a home-court advantage!”
The ‘Canes are now looking ahead to their ACC season debut against Louisville on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky. Despite not having home court advantage, they are heavily favored to defeat winless Louisville. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.