Someone once described “poise” as the ability to keep your head while everybody about you are losing their theirs.
That has become the mantra for the University of Miami’s basketball success this season.
On their way to an 11-0 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Hurricanes not only have posted six of their wins on the road, they have had to overcome double-digit deficits in their last three to escape unscathed.
In their last outing, the Hurricanes trailed by 11 points in the first half at Florida State before coming back for a 74-68 victory.
They were down by 10 with under 14 minutes left in the game before rallying for a one-point win at North Carolina State.
And they were down 12 in the first half at Virginia Tech but won by nine.
“I think poise,” coach Jim Larranaga said. “I think the players know the game goes through a series of runs.”
“Say poised, man,” center Reggie Johnson said. “I feel like we can score with a lot of teams in the country. Florida State is a heckuva defensive team, but I feel like if we run our offense and get some good looks, it’s just a matter of knocking them down.”
“I don’t think it’s anything we do,” guard Shane Larkin said. “I just think we stay poised and play our game.
“Basketball is a game of runs and any time in the game a team can go on a run of 5-0 run, a 6-0 run, a 10-0 run, an 11-0 run.
“We’ve just got to say poised when they do, and I think we have a lot of seniors who are very experienced and don’t let those runs upset us or get us out of our game.
“We just stick to our game plan and keep pushing and eventually we come back and make it a game.”
The seniors Larkin mentioned include Johnson. Johnson was a starter until breaking his thumb in late December and has come off the bench since returning because of the strong play of another senior, Julian Gamble, who took his place up front.
Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji, and Trey McKinney Jones are all senior starters as well. Such a veteran club at this level is a rarity in this age of one-and-one players.
But the catalyst for the 20-3 overall record and 12-game winning streak going into the game at Clemson Sunday evening has been Larkin.
In addition to his scoring (13.4 per game on 48.5 percent shooting overall and 43.7 from 3-point range), Larkin led the ACC in steals per game (2.1) going into the weekend and was tied for third in assists (4.3).
Recently, he also has been assigned to defend the opponent’s top backcourt threat.
“I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again and again,” Larranaga said. “Shane is all about winning. He just wants to win. It doesn’t matter if he scores five points or 20 points, he’s going to do whatever the team needs him to do to win the game.”
Larkin is able to recognize what opportunities the defense is giving him, Larranaga said, whether it is driving the lane and shooting or passing off to one of his big teammates inside, or putting up a 3-pointer.
He doesn’t panic, but keeps his poise. He doesn’t consider what the Hurricanes have accomplished already as an end goal but as just another step toward bigger things.
Before the Hurricanes began preparations for their trip to Clemson, Larkin was asked if Miami, which didn’t even have a team from 1971-85, had one from its usual role as “hunter” to being the “hunter.”
“We’re definitely transitioning to the hunted,” he said. “We’re on top of the ACC and No. 3 in the country, so people are out there giving it their best shot to beat a Top 5 team at home or on the road when they come to our place.
“So I feel like we're getting there. But there doubters out there. It's just going to keep us hungry. I think that's good.”
Hungry and poised so far has been a winning combination.