Miami fails to mount comeback against rival Florida State, dropping their 3rd game in ACC play

Junior guard Bensley Joseph grimaces during Miami's game against FSU at the Watsco Center on Jan. 17, 2024. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

After a close win against Virginia Tech, Miami (12-5, 3-3 ACC) looked to gain momentum against their in-state rival, Florida State (11-6, 5-1 ACC). The Seminoles were looking for their sixth consecutive victory in Coral Gables, a snide that the Hurricanes desperately tried to escape. Despite a strong second-half effort, the ‘Canes fell short of a comeback against the ‘Noles, losing 84-75 at the Watsco Center.

The Seminoles controlled the first half entirely, taking the lead in the opening moments and never looking back. Florida State’s considerable height advantage over the Hurricanes became a pivotal factor, with the Seminoles standing out as one of the tallest teams in the nation. This advantage stifled Miami’s offense, resulting in 14% shooting accuracy from beyond the arc. Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga attributed the team’s offensive struggles to Florida State’s relentless full-court pressure and in-game adjustments.

“We start our offensive with a pass to Norchad Omier, and then he hands it off and passes it to the next guy, and we couldn’t do it.” Larrañaga said. “We had a very hard time at both ends of the court executing our gameplan. Why? Because defensively they disrupted us, and offensively they [Florida State] are so tall…Their size just bothers us. They’re so long and athletic, and we were not able to put a lot of pressure on them. They threw the ball right to the rim, laid it in or dunked it.”

Former Florida State Seminole Matthew Cleveland struggled mightily against his former team, scoring two points on 1-8 shooting. Cleveland struggled to find his rhythm offensively, something uncommon for a solid season for the junior guard.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton prides his team on its depth, trusting in 10-12 guys a night to win by committee. This has led to the Seminoles being one of the deepest teams in the ACC. The same can not be said for Miami, who often play with a shortened rotation every night.

“We won this game by committee, by everyone contributing a little bit,” Hamilton said. “We don’t have a go-to guy that we consistently go to. We try to win games by getting the best out of each individual…the way we play, we need (depth).”

The Seminoles took advantage of this depth advantage, dominating Miami 40-14 off the bench, led by guard Primo Spears and forward Cam Corhen, who both finished with 16 points. With a collective team effort from the whole roster, Florida State comfortably entered the second half with a 10-point lead.

Despite being down 16 points early in the second half, Miami pushed to get back into the game. Junior guard Nigel Pack emerged as a key offensive force, scoring 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half. Pack’s heroics, including a clutch three-pointer in an 8-0 run, got Miami within two points, igniting the crowd at Watsco Center.

Although the ‘Canes managed to narrow the gap to two points on two other occasions, they could never take the lead. Missed opportunities, including six forced turnovers in the second half translating to four points, plagued Miami. Their failure to secure offensive rebounds allowed Florida State to dominate on the glass, outscoring Miami 21-12 on second-chance points.

Both teams also shot uncharacteristically poorly from the charity stripe, with Florida State and Miami missing nine and ten free throws, respectively. Miami’s misses were more costly in the second half, allowing the Seminoles to gradually pull away and secure the victory.

“We started guarding and flying around like we know how to do. We had a chance there, three times,” Nigel Pack said. “We’ve got to convert on that. We missed free throws. Didn’t get rebounds when we needed to, and that’s what it came down to.”

Miami has lost their third game in their last four games and fallen to sixth in the ACC. Florida State extends its winning streak to four and places itself tied with N.C. State for second in the conference.

The Hurricanes travel north to Syracuse for a game against the Orange at the JMA Wireless Dome (formerly known as the Carrier Dome) on Saturday, January 20th. Tipoff is scheduled for noon and will be aired on ESPN2.