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MBB Drops 66-65 Heartbreaker to Clemson

by Alex Schwartz

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The University of Miami men’s basketball team fell to Clemson, 66-65, Saturday afternoon at the Watsco Center.

Miami turned a 12-point first-half deficit into a six-point second-half lead and led by four with under 70 seconds left, but the Tigers scored the final five points to earn the road win. Sophomore guard Isaiah Wong scored a team-high 13 points for the Hurricanes, who once again played without senior guard Chris Lykes, a Preseason First Team All-ACC honoree.

“I thought we gave a great effort today. I thought our guys executed the game plan very well,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “The difference in the game was that Aamir Simms is a very hard matchup for us … I’m very proud of the guys, the way they fought and played a very good game right up until the last possession.”

Clemson (8-1, 2-1 ACC) connected on five of its first six 3-pointers and raced out to a 21-9 lead in the first 8:13 of action. However, Miami (4-4, 0-3 ACC) outscored the Tigers by 14 the rest of the half, including closing the frame on a 12-2 run over the last five minutes to take a 34-32 lead into halftime.

After its hot start from deep, Clemson made just one of its final six 3-pointers of the frame. At the other end, Miami freshman forward Matt Cross connected on all three of his first-half shots from beyond the arc.

The Hurricanes pushed their lead to six, 40-34, early in the second half and the rest of the game was played within a 10-point window the rest of the way. Both sides faced offensive draughts in the middle portion of the half, including Miami going six minutes without a field goal.

Trailing by three down the stretch, Miami evened the game on a three-point play by redshirt senior guard Kameron McGusty with 3:02 left. Senior guard Elijah Olaniyi put the Hurricanes in front on a layup with 2:12 to go and sophomore guard Isaiah Wong doubled the advantage from the stripe with 1:36 remaining.

Miami forced a miss at the other end, but after Clemson grabbed the offensive rebound, redshirt sophomore guard Nick Honor hit a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to one with 1:05 on the clock. The Hurricanes then turned the ball over at the other end, after which Simms banked in a midrange shot in the lane with 19 ticks remaining.

The Hurricanes committed another turnover on their final offensive possession and fell one point shy of their first ACC victory.

Six Miami players scored between nine and 13 points, with freshman guard Earl Timberlake (11), sophomore guard Harlond Beverly (10), Olaniyi (10), Cross (nine) and McGusty (nine) all following just behind Wong.

Cross logged seven assists in the game, the most by a Miami player since Lykes had nine at Virginia Tech on March 8, 2019. It was also the most by a Hurricane freshman since Lykes recorded seven on March 3, 2018, against Virginia Tech. Additionally, Wong tied a career high with four assists, while Timberlake led all players with eight rebounds.

The lone Tiger to score in double figures was Simms, a senior forward who scored the team’s first eight points and finished with 25, adding seven rebounds, four assists and four blocks. He went 10-of-14 from the floor, 2-of-2 from deep and 3-of-4 at the line.

“When we played a big man on him, he stepped out and hit threes,” Larrañaga said. “When we played a smaller man on him, he went inside and posted up. That created matchup problems for us.”

The teams posted nearly identical numbers in all shooting categories, with Miami logging a 46.9 percent (23-of-49) clip from the floor and a 41.2 percent (7-of-17) mark from deep compared to Clemson’s 44.1 percent (26-of-59) and 42.9 percent (9-of-21) respective ledgers. The Hurricanes also shot 66.7 percent (12-of-18) at the line, while the Tigers had a 71.4 percent (5-of-7) mark.

Up next for Miami is a Tuesday night matchup with North Carolina, with tip-off set for 8 p.m., live on ESPN from the Watsco Center.

To keep up with the University of Miami men’s basketball team on social media, follow @CanesHoops on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The 2020-21 Miami Hurricanes men’s basketball season is presented by First National Bank.

– The Hurricanes fell to 13-16 all-time against Clemson, including 8-4 at home and 7-5 in Larrañaga’s tenure.
– Larrañaga, who entered the game with the 10th-most victories of any active Division I coach, is now 664-451 in 37 years as a head coach, including 194-117 in 10 seasons at Miami.
– Saturday marked the 22nd all-time meeting between Larrañaga and Clemson head coach Brad Brownell, including their time as CAA foes, with Larrañaga moving to 13-9 overall, including 9-1 at home.
– For the first time this season, Miami used a starting lineup of Beverly, Cross, Olaniyi, Wong and redshirt senior center Nysier Brooks.
– McGusty returned to action after missing the last three-plus games with a right hamstring injury.
– The Hurricanes fell to 178-13 in Larrañaga’s tenure when leading with 2:00 left and to 78-8 in such games in ACC play.
– Miami dropped to 17-2 when leading at halftime since the start of the 2019-20 season, with both setbacks coming against Clemson, as it previously lost such a game on 3/11/20 in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
– The last time Miami lost at home when leading at halftime also came in the first game of a calendar year, as it fell to NC State in such fashion on 1/3/19.
– The Hurricanes outscored Clemson by 18 points, 31-13, over the final 11:06 of the first half and first 1:35 of the second half, a total span of 12:41.
– After hitting five of their first six 3-pointers, the Tigers connected on just three of their next 14 before Honor’s make with 1:05 to play.
– Olaniyi, who surpassed 350 free-throw attempts in his career, recorded double-figure points for the 61st time, including the second as a Hurricane.
– Beverly has connected on multiple 3-pointers in back-to-back ACC games after never previously doing so even once in league play.
– Beverly notched his 12th double-digit scoring performance, including his third this season.
– Wong scored in double figures for the 18th time, including the eighth in as many games this year.
– Timberlake, in his third collegiate game, tallied double-digit points for the second time.