Having suffered their first loss in conference play, the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes seek a quick turnaround and get back into the win column, as they play host to the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday in Atlantic Coast Conference action at the BankUnited Center.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes ran through the first 13 games of their league slate without a blemish as part of a 14-game win streak overall. However, the team's run at a flawless league slate came to a crashing halt in Winston-Salem this past weekend as Wake Forest posted an impressive 80-65 win over Miami. With the loss, the Hurricanes (13-1) have opened the door a little for Duke (11-3) to crawl back into the conference race, with Miami now holding a two- game lead over the Blue Devils with four to play.
James Johnson's first season in Blacksburg hasn't gone according to plan. The Hokies are a dismal 3-11 in conference play this year and reside in the conference cellar. However, Tech finally brought an end to an ugly nine-game slide, with last weekend's 80-70 win over Florida State.
This series dates back to only the 2000-01 season. Miami holds a narrow 12-10 series advantage. The Hurricanes are 6-3 at home against the Hokies and are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting a 73-64 win in Blacksburg on Jan. 30.
The Hokies put forth an uncharacteristically efficient performance at the offensive end of the floor and finally ended a long skein with a 10-point win over Florida State last time out. Virginia Tech was able to deliver on 50 percent of its shots from the floor and was once again led in the scoring column by All-American candidate Erick Green, who led all scorers with 26 points. C.J. Barksdale was instrumental in the win as well, posting a near double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Robert Brown checked in with 11 points off the bench.
On the season, the Hokies have not had as much offensive success due in large part to a lack of support behind Green's monster campaign. The senior guard currently leads the nation in scoring, pouring in 25.2 ppg on a healthy .475 shooting. Green also finds time to get others involved in the offensive flow, leading Tech in assists as well (4.1 apg). Jarell Eddie is a distant second in the scoring column, but is a double-digit threat at 12.4 ppg. The scoring pool dries up fast after that, with Brown ranking third on the team at just 8.7 ppg.
A team that relies heavily on its defensive pressure was certainly lacking in that area this past weekend, as Wake Forest converted 54.2 percent from the floor and rang up 80 points on the Hurricanes, the first time Miami has yielded 80 or more points on the season. Meanwhile, Miami mustered only a 39.1-percent shooting effort, despite four players finishing in double figures in the loss. Durand Scott led the way with 17 points. Shane Larkin finished with 13 points, while Trey McKinney Jones and Kenny Kadji chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Miami's lack of defense in Winston-Salem was an anomaly, as the team is still regarded as one of the top defensive units in the nation, allowing a mere 59.2 ppg and holding foes to just .384 shooting. Offensively, the team is built on balance, with a strong inside/outside game. Leading the way are Scott (13.3 ppg) and Larkin (13.1 ppg) from the perimeter. Larkin in particular has blossomed as a sophomore, shooting .416 from behind the arc (47-of-113) and leading the team in assists (4.3 apg). Kadji (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and a healthy Reggie Johnson (9.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) give the team a presence up front.