Miami downs Virginia Tech 76-70 for seventh straight victory

Guard Jordan Miller goes up for a shot during Miami's game against Virginia Tech on Feb. 21 at Cassell Coliseum. Photo credit: Tessa Mortensen (Miami Athletics)

Virginia Tech was out for vengeance after losing by nine points to Miami men’s basketball three weeks ago in Coral Gables. In Blacksburg, Virginia, however, the Hokies are 12-3 this season, with wins over powerhouses like Duke, UNC and UVA.

But the Hurricanes denied Virginia Tech a marquee win and the opportunity to even the season series with a 76-70 victory on Tuesday night at Cassell Coliseum for their seventh straight win.

Forward Norchad Omier finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. Guard Jordan Miller was one rebound shy of his own double-double, with 11 points and nine rebounds.

The Hokies (16-12, 6-11 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)) and ‘Canes (23-5, 14-4 ACC) have played several close games over the years, and that was the case again on Tuesday, with lots of back-and-forth action between the two teams.

Miami got off to a shaky start, shooting 0 for 5 from the field and trailing by as many as nine points early on. The Hurricanes’ transition defense was poor, as 16 of the first 19 Hokie points were layups or dunks. The only outside shot was a 3-pointer by guard Hunter Cattoor, which was his 1000th collegiate point.

Miami was able to regain control of the game thanks to its ball screen defense. The Hurricanes pushed the Virginia Tech guards off toward half court to hinder their ability to get open looks.

“We ball pressured to take them out of just looking inside,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We had two guys on the ball and made them throw over us and gave us time to recover.”

Additionally, Larrañaga said another reason for the increased pressure was to exhaust Virginia Tech’s primary ball handler, Sean Pedulla.

“He had to handle it under more duress, which made him wear down.”

The ‘Canes limited forward Grant Basile to 13 points over the course of the game, compared to his previous four-game average of 27 points. That allowed Miami to re-enter the game and take a 36-32 lead at halftime.

The second half started off strong for the ‘Canes, with guard Wooga Poplar coming off the bench and scoring seven quick points. Miami quickly built a nine-point lead at 41-32, but the Hokies responded with a 12-4 run marred by turnovers and poor 3-point defense from the ‘Canes.

The Hurricanes quickly responded and increased their lead to double digits, largely due to the rebounding of Omier and Miller, as well as the aggressive guard play from Nijel Pack and Isaiah Wong, who both continually attacked the basket.

Miami kept the Hokies and their hostile crowd at bay for the rest of the game. Any time Virginia Tech made a run, the ‘Canes immediately answered.

The key to the game for Miami was its dominance on the boards. The ‘Canes had 14 offensive rebounds compared to the Hokies’ seven. Miami also went 15 of 19 from the free-throw line.

Virginia Tech, meanwhile, only got to the foul line seven times the entire game.

“I like the way my team is playing,” Larrañaga said. “Great practices and preparation. Practicing very hard and very well leads to great results.”

Next up, the ‘Canes return to action on Saturday against Florida State at the Watsco Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.