Every way you can think of losing a basketball game, Miami has done it this season.
It’s blown leads late in games, lost games in overtime, been blown out in games, and even missed free throws late in games as it did this past Saturday against NC State.
Those missed free throws could have sent that game into overtime, another example of Miami’s failure to close out games this season.
It continues to be a gut-wrenching season for Miami, full of constant growing pains that have yet to pay off. Miami has now lost eight games by single-digits this season, including three in overtime, and has fallen below .500 overall for the year, not to mention 2-8 in the ACC.
Miami trailed NC State 56-54 in the final seconds Saturday afternoon when Raphael Akpejiori came down with an offensive rebound and was fouled with 3.5 seconds remaining. Akpejiori nailed his first attempt but his second clanked off the rim, handing Miami another tough defeat in the process.
Saturday afternoon seemed to sum up Miami’s season as a whole. The Hurricanes once again found themselves in an early hole and trailed by six at halftime. They later trailed by as many as nine in the second half before going on a late run that ultimately fell short.
That late run once again highlighted Miami’s usual mistakes. Miami had chances to win the game late but once again fell short. Manu Lecomte missed one of two free throws that would have tied the game at 53 with 1:14 remaining. Erik Swoope also missed one of two with 3:31 remaining that could have cut NC State’s lead to a point as well.
Miami finished the afternoon shooting a horrid 5 of 18 from the foul line, just three days after it shot 5 of 20 from the line in a four point loss to Pittsburgh in, you guessed it, overtime.
In that game Miami could have sealed the deal in regulation but missed four straight free throws before Lecomte finally hit one of two to send the game into overtime. That could have been a win that possibly turned the season around. It instead kept it spiraling downwards.
The Hurricanes don’t have the offensive power they had a season ago. They don’t have a player who can consistently get his own shot. Jim Larranaga knows that. That’s why he shifted his defensive strategy to a zone defense to keep games low scoring while keeping his own team in ballgames.
That strategy means you have to score points when the opportunities are handed to you, opportunities that Miami has failed to capitalize on. Leaving 28 points on the floor in two combined games is just a mindboggling number. The missed free throws late hurt even more as Miami failed to catch a break once again.
Miami has continued to fight in every game this season, even after excruciating losses. That’s a huge credit to Larranaga. You just have to wonder how much longer it’ll be able to keep that up in a season that has drastically slipped away.
Luckily for Miami it has a quick turnaround Monday night as it faces instate rival Florida State, another team struggling in the ACC as of late. Florida State defeated Miami 63-53 in Coral Gables on January 15th but has lost five of seven since, including three by double digits. This game means a ton to the Seminoles, who sit at 5-6 in the conference and still hope to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Miami could very well ruin those chances.
Something will have to give in Tallahassee.
Miami just hopes it’s that much needed break.