Comeback for the Ages Sends Miami Into ACC Quarterfinals
By: Rob Dunning
GREENSBORO, N.C. – What a way to kick off a tournament. In a game that will go down as one of the more memorable ACC Tournament games in recent history, Miami rallied from 10 points down with 35 seconds to play to force overtime and eventually beat Virginia, 69-62, Thursday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The win sends Miami into the tournament’s quarterfinal round where it will face top-seed North Carolina Friday at noon.
As it seems as it always does for the Hurricanes, it came down to the end. This one was just a little crazier than most.
In what is believed to be the biggest comeback in under a minute to play in tournament history, the `Canes erased a 53-43 deficit beginning with a Durand Scott three-pointer with 34 seconds to play in regulation.
What transpired over the next few minutes of real time will be replayed all night on ESPN and shown on every tournament highlight show for years to come.
A pair of missed free throws by UVa’s Sammy Zeglinksi set off a chain of events that will be weighing on the mind of Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett for quite some time.
After Scott’s big three to start the comeback, Malcolm Grant hit another three-pointer to pull Miami to within four, 53-49 with 24 seconds to go. Then, consecutive UVa turnovers led to a dunk by Julian Gamble and a lay-in by Scott to tie the game up with 13 seconds remaining.
And as you would expect, the final 10 seconds were just as crazy as the previous 30. Virginia turned it over, then Miami turned it over, then Virginia turned it over again and with one second left on the clock, Gamble missed a running three-pointer as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
“The way this year has gone we have always had adversity and had to come back and fight,” Gamble said. “Even down like we were we still had no quit in us and we were going to fight until the end. Virginia cooperated a little bit – and they are a great basketball team – but we were able to capitalize on those opportunities.”
The comeback was nothing short of miraculous. Game stories and the box score won’t do it justice. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, find the highlights anywhere you can. If you were in the arena or were able to watch it on TV (and you stuck around for the final minute), you’ll have a story to tell.
Once in overtime, Grant hit a jumper early on and a minute later a pair of free throws and Miami never looked back, pulling away for the seven-point win.
“We have been playing so many close games throughout the whole season, we know what to expect when it comes to the end,” Garrius Adams said. “Some teams when they are up 10 or up five with 30 seconds left think it is better for them. They think it is over. We don’t think that way. We keep playing and pushing.”
The game was close for much of the first half before the `Canes made and 11-2 run at the end of the period to seize momentum and a 31-25 lead at the break. Neither team opened the half particularly well but while Virginia eventually snapped out of it, the `Canes couldn’t. Miami connected on just two field goals over a span of over 18-plus minutes of game action as Virginia expanded its lead by as much as 11.
The `Canes couldn’t hit water if they had jumped off a boat. Everyone in the building knew the game was over. Everyone except for the 20 people on Miami’s bench.
“The coaches are always preaching to us to play to the end,” Adams said. “I think that is all we try to do. Just keep playing and keep going hard.
“As you can see, we came out with the win by playing hard and being relentless.”
It has been the same story for the `Canes all season. Whether they lose a lead or come storming back like they did today, it almost always comes down to the wire. It is stressful, exciting and sometimes frustrating.
And it was only fitting the tournament’s first game included the Hurricanes and another one of their wild finishes.
But now it’s time for Carolina, a team Miami lost to in the final seconds a few months back in the only meeting between the two teams this season.
UNC is good and they will have the home crowd behind them. The `Canes won’t be able to go nearly a whole half without scoring against the Tar Heels like they did today.
But then again, after what we saw earlier today, anything is possible.