The Miami Hurricanes had problems with the Virginia Tech Hokies during the regular season, having dropped both games played. However, in the opening day of the ACC tournament, Jim Larranaga‘s team finally cracked through to advance with 57-53 victory, Wednesday.
As the score would indicate, the victory did not come easy for the Hurricanes. Virginia Tech opened the game up with an early nine-point lead because Jarell Eddie knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half. The Hurricanes hustled back on the shoulders of some key plays by forward Erik Swoope. Swoope had a thunderous dunk, wrestled for rebounds and brought energy that was desperately needed. Miami chipped away and closed the halftime gap to one, 32-31.
Miami struggled against VT’s zone during the two regular season games and still did not completely reverse course Wednesday. However, the Hurricanes hit seven 3-pointers. The percentage outside the arc (28 percent) did not scare the Hokies out of the 2-3, but it allowed the Hurricanes to cut through some gaps to get layups in the second half. The change in the offense and some steady man-to-man defense on the other end allowed Miami to take a 48-42 lead.
Still, Virginia Tech would not go away and held Miami without a field goal for nearly seven minutes in the second half. During this time, Tech was able to climb back, gain confidence and take the lead back. However, the hustle from Miami overwhelmed Tech as the clock ticked down. Swoope scored on a nifty pass from Tonye Jekiri that gave the Hurricanes a 53-52 lead they would not surrender. Rion Brown and Swoope each hit free throws down the stretch and VT could not convert on its chances.
Miami should be feeling fortunate having finally beat VT, but with North Carolina State and T.J. Warren waiting in the next game, the Hurricanes cannot be relaxed. Warren has scored 83 points in his last two games and was named ACC Player of the Year. If Miami wants to keep its season going, it will have to play much better Thursday.