WASHINGTON – Miami's troubles began with a frustrating bus ride to the arena and continued during a first half in which the number of Hurricanes baskets could be counted on one hand and a thumb.
And soon after the finest basketball season in Miami history ended with a 71-61 loss to Marquette in the NCAA tournament Thursday night, the Hurricanes wondered aloud why this game was so different than many of the 35 that preceded it.
"It was really the first time all season long that we didn't have one guy get a hot hand and give us a chance to stay with them," coach Jim Larranaga said.
The Hurricanes went 6 for 29 from the field in the first half while falling behind by 13 points, and it only got worse after that. Sometimes, Marquette played brilliantly on defense. And sometimes, Miami just missed an open shot.
Basically, nothing went right.
"You ever have days where you're just out of sync or things just don't run along smoothly?" Larranaga said. "Almost like our trip over here. Our hotel is a mile and a half, it took us 45 minutes to get here. We had to go on nine different streets, weaving our way in and out of traffic and everything. And that's the way it seemed on the court. We were trying to find our way and never could. Never could get in rhythm offensively, and defensively."
Marquette (26-8), the No. 3 seed in the East Regional, shot 54 percent overall and 65 percent (15 for 23) in the second half. The second-seeded Hurricanes shot 34 percent overall and never led after going up 4-2.
"The game is very simple," Larranaga said. "There are only two things you have to do in basketball — one, put the ball in the basket, two, stop the other team from putting the ball in the basket. We weren't able to do either."
And so, Miami (29-7) still hasn't advanced past the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. But that didn't entirely ruin a season in which the Hurricanes pinned a 90-63 defeat on hated Duke and won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles.
"The things that we've done this season will never be taken away from us," forward Julian Gamble said. "It's history that will stand forever. Everyone on this team was a vital part of that. It was the greatest season in Miami history, and it's something I'm happy to be part of."
The Hurricanes also got outrebounded 36-31, in part because they were without 6-foot-10 center Reggie Johnson, who sustained an injury in Miami's second-round win over Illinois.
But it probably wouldn't have mattered. Not on this night.
"The one thing I can't question is our effort," guard Durand Scott said. "We went out there and played as hard as we possibly could. It was just not our night. Give credit to Marquette as well, they played phenomenal defense. That's just how it goes sometimes."
Scott fouled out with 47 seconds left and received a standing ovation and polite applause from Miami fans behind the team bench. The 6-foot-5 senior was voted ACC defensive player of the year and contributed heavily to the Hurricanes' success this season. But in this game he was 3 for 13 from the floor.
Shane Larkin led the Hurricanes with 14 points and Kenny Kadji had 11.
Kadji gave Miami a bit of hope early in the second half when he drained a 3-pointer to make it 30-19. But Marquette responded with an 11-4 spurt that put the Hurricanes in a 41-23 hole with 14:59 to go.
Miami then got a free throw from Larkin and a layup from Scott, the first time in the game the Hurricanes put a run of points together.
A 3 by Miami guard Trey McKinney Jones made it 44-30, but Marquette answered with four straight baskets to dispel any hope of a comeback.
The Hurricanes went 1 for 11 from beyond the arc in falling behind 29-16 at the break — matching their largest halftime deficit of the season.
The poor shooting began early. Miami missed all six of its 3-point tries and let a 4-2 lead turn into 12-4 deficit by going scoreless for nearly seven minutes. Minutes later, a follow-dunk by Marquette's Trent Lockett and a 3-pointer by Jamil Wilson made it 22-10.
The Hurricanes' starting backcourt of Scott and Jones combined to miss all 10 of their field goal tries, and backup Rion Brown went 1 for 6.