It wasn’t easy, but the Hurricanes left their home ground with another conference victory.
Needing a quick spark, Miami soared to an 18-2 finish in a 91-83 win over NC State on Wednesday night at the Watsco Center.
“I thought it was an incredibly exciting college basketball game and a hell of a home win for us,” said Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. “I was so impressed with the speed, quickness and athleticism of NC State, and how they were able to attack the basket with their offensive dribbles and rebounds.”
The Hurricanes (10-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) were behind by eight points with 11 minutes remaining and a five-game winning streak in play.
Moments later, their veterans stepped in to knock out the Wolfpack (7-6, 0-2 ACC). Second-year guard Isaiah Wong scored back-to-back goals by 3 points, placing the Hurricanes in the lead for the 4:39 final.
“I think with Isaiah there’s a really good balance between being really aggressive and looking to score, and then really looking to create for his teammates, and he does a good job of both,” said Larrañaga. “But for the last 10 minutes when the game was on the line, we asked him to just step it up, and [have] him and Kam [McGusty] to resume. And they both did.
Wong scored 15 points after halftime, including a right-handed dunk on an offensive rebound to send the arena into a frenzy. The All-ACC first-team preseason winner was one of four Hurricanes to finish with double digits in the scoring column.
“This dunk really gave me energy, it gave energy to the whole team and it gave me a boost of confidence,” said Wong. “Seeing the crowd getting excited and the players getting excited, we got our defense back and we got our score back as well.”
Junior forward Jordan Miller broke for a season-high 25 points and buried a three with 2:40 left in the MU’s 10-of-19 3-point attack.
“I always want to give credit to my teammates; they found me, ”Miller said. “I think my teammates trust me a lot more. The rim was just big tonight. I started off a bit and decided to stay aggressive. I’m looking to build on that and stay consistent, it’s just a game. “
NC State lobbied Miami throughout the first half, converting a six-point deficit to a one-point halftime advantage. The two teams traded baskets for the last 6.5 minutes, until UM cleared the deficit and pulled away.
Sixth-year senior red-shirt goaltender Kameron McGusty produced his fourth career double-double. The former Oklahoma transfer had 20 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to help guide the Hurricanes.
After registering 11 offensive rebounds and 11 second chance points in the first half, NC State did not score offensive in the dying minutes. The Wolfpack have missed nine of their last 12 shots and the Hurricanes shot over 64 percent of the field in the second half.
Forward Jericole Hellems led the Wolfpack with 24 points, while goaltender Dereon Seabron contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Walker netted all of his 11 points and four rebounds in the second half in place of sixth-year senior forward Sam Waardenburg, who was sidelined by first-year goaltender Wooga Poplar due to the health and safety protocol of the ACC.
“You’re supposed to step in when your number is called, and I think he did a great job tonight,” Miller said. “Ant is one of those people who is always involved, is always going to contribute in one way or another. I think tonight he really showed that he can contribute as much as all of us.
With the win, Miami holds a 2-0 start in ACC competition for the first time since 2015. The Hurricanes are six-game winners in a row after a four-year drought.
“I think this team is really together, and they really trust each other,” said Larrañaga. “So they know that tomorrow and Friday are preparation days, and that we need to get ready for Wake Forest. This one is already behind us. We feel good about tonight’s win, but we would feel a lot better if we played so hard and so well on Saturday. “
Then Miami is back home to host Wake Forest on Saturday. Departure is scheduled for 6 p.m.