Published November 20, 2014
After a huge lead got away from North Carolina State, nearly everybody pitched in to deliver the win coach Sidney Lowe and the Wolfpack so desperately needed.
For Miami, the result was all too familiar: Another loss away from south Florida.
N.C. State snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Hurricanes 72-70 on Sunday, with the Wolfpack receiving contributions from several players down the stretch.
Richard Howell scored a career-high 17 points in his first start in nearly two months. Tracy Smith added 16 points and hit the basket in the final minute that put N.C. State ahead to stay.
Scott Wood scored 11 points and hit three 3s. Ryan Harrow made a critical steal. C.J. Williams hit an important free throw, then teamed with Smith to make one final stop.
They all helped the Wolfpack (12-7, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) regroup after blowing a 17-point lead, and perhaps take a step toward reclaiming the season. Afterward, in the locker room, Lowe said he implored his team to "remember what we did."
"Remember how we dug in defensively the last two possessions," Lowe said. "Remember we executed in the right way. ... That's big for a young team. We have to build on that. Remember what we did to win. Remember how we had to play — not just with energy, but intelligently, being in the right place. No question about it. It's big to win a close game like this."
Malcolm Grant scored 23 points and hit five 3-pointers, and Reggie Johnson added 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Hurricanes (12-7, 1-4), whose 12th straight ACC road defeat wasn't decided until the final buzzer.
"A loss is a loss. I don't care if we were down 100," Johnson said. "We're in a melancholy mood right now. We're not giving up."
Miami had the ball down 71-70 in the closing seconds but Harrow stole the ball from Durand Scott with 20 seconds left.
After Williams extended the lead to two with a free throw with 15.9 seconds left, the Hurricanes had one last chance. Grant drove the left baseline and tried to feed the ball to Johnson in the paint. Smith and Williams broke up the pass and the horn sounded with players for both teams diving on the loose ball.
Scott finished with 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting for Miami, which fell to 1-5 on the road this season and remained winless against N.C. State at the RBC Center.
The Hurricanes got hot down the stretch, scoring on 12 consecutive trips downcourt as part of their frenetic 32-14 rally that gave them their first lead since midway through the first half. Grant hit three 3s and scored 11 points during the burst that Scott capped with a layup with 1:04 left that put Miami up 70-69.
"Obviously, we're down (after) losing the ball game, but we showed a lot of character in competing and fighting," Miami coach Frank Haith said. "We need to win the game. Obviously, when you're struggling a little bit, games are hard to win. We need to make some plays. There at the end, I thought our guys did a great job getting back into the game."
Smith followed with a putback with 44 seconds to play to give N.C. State the lead for good, and held on to claim their first win since a 90-68 rout of last-place Wake Forest on Jan. 8. N.C. State followed that win with losses to three of the league's top four teams: Boston College, Florida State and No. 4 Duke.
Lorenzo Brown finished with 10 points and gave the Wolfpack their largest lead when his three-point play with 12:33 left capped a 14-4 run and made it 55-38.
"We shouldn't have lost that lead, but the momentum switches all the time," Harrow said. "Since that happened, we had to buckle down and execute and get stops."
Lowe shook up his starting lineup, sending two freshmen to the bench and giving a third a rare start. Harrow made his second start at the point in place of senior Javi Gonzalez, while C.J. Leslie and Brown came off the bench. In their place, Williams earned his second start and Howell started for the first time since Dec. 4.
Miami, which lost for the fourth time in five games to drop into 11th place in the ACC, hasn't won a conference road game since winning at Virginia on Feb. 26, 2009.
"It's tough because we don't deserve this," Grant said. "We're all good young guys. It's tough on everyone."