Miami picks up their first ACC win of the season against Notre Dame

Junior guard Matthew Cleveland dunks the ball in the first half of Miami's game against Notre Dame at the Watsco Center on Dec. 2, 2023. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Following a blowout defeat to No. 12 Kentucky at the Rupp Arena, the No. 8 Miami Hurricanes (UM) (6-1, 1-0 ACC) looked for a bounceback win in their first ACC game of the year against the University of Notre Dame (UND) (3-4,0-1 ACC). After taking the lead halfway through the 1st half, the Hurricanes never looked back, winning 62-49 at the Watsco Center.

The ‘Canes displayed a team effort from start to finish against the Fighting Irish, with three of their five starters tallying double-digit points. This afternoon, one of the key performances came from Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland. The junior guard was the team’s leading scorer, finishing with 14 points, five boards, and four steals to help propel the Hurricanes to victory.

From top to bottom, Miami’s defense was a massive part of the ‘Cane win today. While forcing 13 turnovers, the Hurricane defense stifled Notre Dame, shooting a poor 6-31 from beyond the arc and 28% overall. Even more, the Fighting Irish’s leading scorer, Marcus Burton, was held to just six points on 3-11 shooting. Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga attributed their success on Burton to superb defensive play from sophomore guard Bensley Joseph.

“A lot of the credit for our defensive stops goes to Bensley Joseph,” Larrañaga said. “He guarded Marcus Burton and he is the catalyst for everything that they [Miami] do.”

With about 6:50 left in the first half, freshman guard Kyshawn George hit a three-pointer to take a 22-20 Hurricane lead. From that point on, the ‘Canes never lost the lead. They used George’s triple to go on a 12-0 run to take command of the game. Despite the bench scoring only ten total points, coach Larrañaga gave a lot of credit to the second unit for today’s victory.

“I thought the bench really got us the lead,” Larrañaga said. “Kyshawn George and Christian Watson and A.J. Casey, when they were in there, I thought that they won their rounds.”

Despite maintaining the lead for over 30 minutes, Miami was never able to extend their lead past 13, mainly due to the relentlessness of the young Notre Dame roster. The Fighting Irish finished the game rebounding more than the ‘Canes in the offensive glass 15-6 and held UM’s leading scorer, Wooga Poplar, to nine points on 1-4 shooting from deep. Coming into the game, the junior guard was averaging just under 19 points a game on an impressive 55% shooting from three.

One of the biggest positives for the Hurricanes was the fouling, or lack thereof, for Miami big man Norchad Omier. While one of the best centers in the ACC, Omier has struggled with staying out of foul trouble, often racking up two or more fouls in the first half. Today, Omier didn’t pick up his first foul until seven minutes into the second half, which allowed coach Larrañaga to breathe a sigh of relief.

“You can’t imagine how much sleep I lose over him [Omier] getting in foul trouble,” Larrañaga said. “When he’s not fouling and when he’s not on the bench, he’s a huge contributor in every facet in the game.”

Omier finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, racking up his third double-double.

Miami looks to extend its win streak against the Long Island University Sharks (LUI) (1-5) on Wednesday, December 6th, at the Watsco Center. Tip-off is set for 7:00 PM on the ACC Network.