The Hurricanes held a 25-point advantage in the second half. However, in the Miami-Florida State rivalry, it is safe to assume that no lead is too large to overcome.
The ‘Canes saw their 25-point lead disappear as Matthew Cleveland’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped off an incredible comeback for the Seminoles on Saturday at the Watsco Center.
Miami’s (23-6, 14-5 ACC) heartbreaking loss to its in-state rival ended its seven-game winning streak, as well as its 15-0 undefeated record at home, and pushed Florida State’s (9-20, 7-11 ACC) winning streak in the Watsco Center to five games.
“It appeared to me, at the start of the second half, that our battery died,” head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We did not have the energy or juice, and it shows most of all with our defense.”
The Hurricanes seemed unstoppable on offense in the first half, and Florida State looked lost offensively. However, in the second half, the roles were reversed as the Seminoles held Miami’s offense to only 30 second–half points while scoring 54 themselves.
Turnovers plagued the ‘Canes in the final 20 minutes, as their eight giveaways turned into 10 points on the other side for Florida State.
Miami desperately missed guard Nijel Pack’s presence, especially in the second half as the Hurricanes’ backcourt seemed fatigued. Bensley Joseph got the start in Pack’s place, and he scored 12 points in 37 minutes.
“Nijel Pack’s a terrific player,” Larrañaga said. “By not having him it shortens our rotation. That doesn’t give [Joseph] a chance to rest.”
Miami’s entire starting lineup was in double-figures, and fifth-year senior guard Jordan Miller had a team-high 21 points. Third-year sophomore Norchad Omier scored 15 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
Cleveland and guard Darin Green Jr. each scored 20 points in Florida State’s improbable come–from–behind win.
An Isaiah Wong 3-pointer followed by an alley-oop slam from Omier forced the Seminoles to take a timeout less than a minute into the game. After a 14-2 run by the ‘Canes to start the game, Florida State cut the deficit to five midway through the first half.
However, the ‘Canes brought the lead up to 50-25 thanks to a 22-2 run, bringing the sold-out crowd at the Watsco Center to its feet.
As the first half concluded, the score sat at 54-31 in favor of Miami, which benefited from 65.7% field goal shooting and 16 points off 10 Florida State turnovers.
Miller led the way for the Hurricanes, scoring 12 points while shooting 5-for-7 from the floor. Omier and guard Wooga Poplar contributed nine points each in Miami’s high-scoring first half.
A 13-1 run early in the second half by Florida State brought the ‘Canes’ lead down to 11 as Miami’s offense struggled to find rhythm. After a quiet first half, Cleveland came alive in the second with 18 points to bring the Seminoles back.
Miami’s red-hot offense went cold in the second half as the Hurricanes shot a mere 37.9% from the field. Meanwhile, Florida State’s offense exploded, shooting 67.7% on field goal attempts.
A 3-pointer by Green Jr. brought Miami’s seemingly insurmountable lead down to two points with 7:25 remaining. The Seminoles then took their first lead of the game on a layup by guard Caleb Mills with less than six minutes to go.
The teams traded leads down the stretch before a 3 from Miller gave Miami a two-point advantage with six seconds left. The Seminoles opted not to call a timeout as Cleveland nailed a deep game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.
Miami will close out the regular season at home against the Pittsburgh Panthers next Saturday, March 4. Tipoff at the Watsco Center is set for 6 p.m. on ACC Network.