Most college basketball teams look forward to a return home to improve their chances of getting a victory.
In one of the quirks of the Atlantic Coast Conference season so far, the Hurricanes have won two conference games in opponents’ arenas against one loss while losing all four of their league games in their BankUnited Center home on their Coral Gables campus.
Of course, it’s a small sample size -- less than half of the 18-game conference schedule -- and their last two games at home were against No. 2 Syracuse and Duke, No. 18 at the time of their meeting but now No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 16 in USA, losable games anywhere.
But the Hurricanes also lost earlier at home to Florida State, a middle-of-the-pack team in the league, and Virginia Tech, which is at the bottom of the standings. The only win the Hokies have in ACC play was at Miami in overtime back in early December.
Even in the loss at Syracuse earlier this month, the Hurricanes played the Orange to within five points. At home last weekend, the Orange pulled away to a 12-point victory.
What’s going on here?
Miami coach Jim Larranaga answered at a press briefing Monday afternoon.
“Quite frankly, I think our opponents last week were very, very good,” Larranaga said, referring to the Orange and Blue Devils. “The Florida State game, we just did not finish well, and that was also true of the Virginia Tech game at home here.
“In those games, it was very different than the way we finished the game at Carolina and at Georgia Tech.
“But if we knew why our players were so cool, calm and collected at Tech and at Carolina, then we would try to repeat that over and over again and try to win those games.”
Larranaga expanded on that with a familiar theme.
“I’ve said this over and over,” he said. “Players don’t play the same way every night. They don’t shoot the ball the same way every night, they don’t rebound the same every night.
“When you’re pretty inconsistent in certain areas, they show up more at the end of games when the game is on the line.”
Larranaga compared it to a respectable golfer who may par a few holes and maybe even play good on the entire front nine.
“But after a period of time, your weaknesses end up showing up,” he said, “and you don’t finish as strong as you would like.
“That’s pretty much the way we are right now. We can play well for certain segments of the game and on certain nights we can play well for the whole game.
“But we are still very inconsistent, partly because of our inexperience. Guys had had to adapt to different roles, and those roles are very challenging.”
Prime example of the inconsistency: Freshman guard Manu Lecomte scored a career-high 16 points in the win at Georgia Tech. He had three points against Syracuse. Guard Davon Reed, meanwhile, scored three points against Georgia Tech. He had 16 against Syracuse.
“If I can get them both scoring 16 in the same game,” Larranaga said, “we’d have ourselves a heckuva combination!”
After the game at Maryland, the Hurricanes return home to host Norfolk State in a non-conference affair on Saturday and then entertain No. 18/17 Pittsburgh in Coral Gables on Feb. 5.