The tough yet varied tests have come and gone for Miami’s men’s basketball in its last four games.
Two one-point losses to longtime rivals Florida State, a one-two at home to North Carolina and an upset win over then-No. 2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium has primed the Hurricanes for another change of attitude: a road test against the ailing Virginia tech
“I think everyone in life struggles with adversity. There are always challenges and we have a very simple philosophy based on three words and the first word is ‘attitude,’” said Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. And you must remain positive under all circumstances… There will always be adversity, and you must learn from every experience.”
In front of a sold-out Watsco Center, UM failed to deliver on FSU Saturday. However, a second-half rally from 26 points behind gave reason to believe that an opponent’s lead is almost never certain.
“I was definitely glad our boys hit back,” said Miami assistant coach DJ Irving. “It was exciting to see that they could compete and hold on for so long, even when they were that deep – 26 at one point – and not just give up… It’s good to know that we’re capable of doing that.” do that, but you definitely never want to be down like that. [I am] happy we could come back but also curious as to why we came down so badly.”
Slow starts are no stranger to the Hurricanes (14-5, 6-2 ACC) this year. FSU buried UM in a 43-19 halftime deficit, the largest all season, while the Hurricanes barely managed 26% in the first half.
And the Hokies (10-8, 2-5 ACC), despite their current two-game losing streak and a 0-4 ACC start, possess unique strengths as they host the Canes at the Cassell Coliseum at 7 p.m. Wednesday
“I really like them. Keve Aluma and Justyn Mutts are absolutely a fantastic 1-2 combination inside. Both can strengthen the defense and get you out there,” said Larrañaga. “Storm Murphy can get the ball to them and he’s an excellent shot. They are first in the league in defending the 3 and they are first in the league in the 3 point percentage. So it’s a very, very challenging combination. And of course play [Virginia] Tech is one of the most important for me [tough] Places where they can play in the conference because their fans are very rabid.”
At the helm of the ninth-oldest team in Division I college basketball, which includes five college grads, Larrañaga has emphasized the importance of focusing on one game at a time.
“There are no nights off, there are no easy games, there is no game to watch,” said Larrañaga. “Every game, that’s why I keep repeating it, is a marathon. You can’t slow down in the middle of a marathon and expect to finish strong. People will bypass you, one game at a time. If you understand the idea of playing one game at a time and preparing your players for that game, that opponent, because every opponent is so different.”
Aluma, a preseason All-ACC First Team contender, leads Virginia Tech in scoring with 15.7 points per game. The 6-foot-9 redshirt senior forward scored his 14thth Double-digit goals in a row in the Hokies’ 10-point loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina Monday night.
Virginia Tech’s veteran guards Storm Murphy, Hunter Cattoor, and Nahiem Alleyne each shoot at least 35% from 3-point territory. Forward Justyn Mutts collected his first double-double against the Tar Heels with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hokies won the two-game season series last year and lead 24-19 all-time. UM has not defeated Virginia Tech since they won a 102-95 triple overtime fight in Blacksburg, Virginia in February 2020.
“I don’t think anyone looks past us or is more excited to play us,” said Larrañaga. “As far as I can tell, our boys try to prepare for every game. Every opponent we play tries to prepare for us. Do we sit first? [place] or 12thwe have a very good opponent on the pitch.”