The University of Miami basketball team has taken the court six times at the BankUnited Center this season looking for its first ACC home win but each time has seen its hopes end in the same painful way: with a loss.
But Wednesday night was a different story. Wednesday night represented attempt number seven for the Hurricanes, and sometimes all you need is that lucky number seven to make you forget all about your previous failed attempts.
Miami (13-13, 4-9) started the game red hot from the field and held off a late Notre Dame surge to defeat the Fighting Irish 71-64 for its first ACC home win of the season. Just four days after shooting a season-low 25.9 from the field against Virginia Tech, Miami shot 47.9 percent and 52.9 from three-point range, knocking down nine of its 17 attempts from beyond the arc.
That hot shooting allowed the Hurricanes to build a 15-point first half lead. Guard Rion Brown was one of three players to score in double figures, leading the Hurricanes with 21 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists. Garrius Adams also added 14 and Davon Reed scored 12.
“For me, it was just trying to get that home win for the crowd, get everybody back to the gym and get that feel of home-court advantage again,” Brown said. “I kind of felt like we were letting the fans down. They’re coming out and supporting us and we’re not playing hard enough to win. For me, it felt great and I hope the fans enjoyed it and come back out and watch.”
No win ever comes easy for Miami though and this one was no different. After making only 9-of-31 field goal attempts in the first half, Notre Dame (14-13, 5-9) caught fire in the second half, connecting on 15-of-29 attempts. Guards Demetrius Jackson and Pat Connaughton knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers for Notre Dame, part of a 9-2 run, to cut Miami’s lead to 56-48 with 6:31 left in the game. Notre Dame continued to chip away at the lead, cutting it down to seven with four minutes left and then pulled to within five at 61-56 with 57 seconds to go.
Miami guard Manu Lecomte answered with a floater off the glass to put the Hurricanes back up by seven but Connaughton answered that with another 3-pointer to pull the Irish to within four at 63-59. Connaughton then came away with a steal and found freshman Steve Vasturia for another three to make it a one-point game with 36 seconds left. Connaughton finished with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-7 from three.
“In the second half they lit it up much better,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We were changing defenses trying to keep Connaughton under control. He still scored 22 points but I think we made him work for his baskets.”
The Hurricanes were money at the line in crunch time though, sinking all eight of their free throw attempts in the final 29 seconds, including four by Brown, to pull out the win.
“The main thing for me was I didn’t want to be the reason we lose another home game,” Brown said. “That was the main thing on my mind. I know down the stretch in that Pittsburgh game, I missed two free throws down the stretch. That was definitely on my mind going to the line. I just wanted to make them for our team so we could get this win.”
Miami will be back on the hardwood Saturday afternoon when it hosts Boston College at the Bank United Center. Boston College upset No. 1 Syracuse 62-59 on the road in overtime Wednesday night, handing the Orange its first loss of the season.