Miami basketball: Hurricanes’ offense collapses against Boston College

With 6 minutes, 17 seconds left Saturday against Boston College, Chris Lykes stepped to the free-throw line for Miami. The Hurricanes had ridden a surprising first-half offensive explosion — without Jim Larranaga, no less — and one of the game’s catalysts was ready to drop in a pair of free throws to put Miami basketball at 70 points with a significant portion of the game to go.

The free throws were Lykes 15th and 16th points in the game, and gave the Hurricanes a 7-point lead on one of the ACC’s worst teams. Ultimately, Miami would only need to make 1 or 2 more shots to survive in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and during the final 6 minutes the Hurricanes would get 10 more cracks at it. Each one missed. The Eagles, improbably, pulled out a 72-70 win against Miami at Conte Forum.

“It was one of those will to win games,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said during his postgame press conference. “We didn’t play great, but we had the will to win.”

No. 25 Miami went scoreless for the final 6:17. The Eagles (15-10, 5-7) closed on a 9-0 run. The Hurricanes’ three-game winning streak, their first during ACC play this season, ended with one of their worst offensive breakdowns of the year.

Before the game, the recipe seemed right for an upset. Bruce Brown, Miami’s star shooting guard, was going to miss his fourth consecutive game. Larranaga wouldn’t be on the sidelines due to an illness. Boston College, which does have two of the conference’s most explosive scorers, could knock off a Top 25 team at home.

Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, as anticipated, did just about all the heavy lifting for the Eagles. Robinson, who entered as the ACC’s second leading scorer, poured in 29. Bowman, who check in at No. 6, dropped another 24. The two guards combined for 53 of Boston College’s 72 points. No one else on the team cracked double figures.

For most of 40 minutes, the Hurricanes’ more balanced approach worked better than the Eagles’ two-man game. Dejan Vasiljevic, typically not more than a spot-up shooter, led Miami (17-6, 7-5) with 17 points and nailed 3 3-pointers during the first 4 minutes alone. The guard then gave way to Lykes after his hot start. The freshman finished with 16 points, including 12 during the first half. Ja’Quan Newton continued his recent hot streak, too. The guard chipped in another 11 with 7 coming during the first half. The Hurricanes went into the break with a 44-43 edge.

Even the next 15 minutes went fine. The Hurricanes’ offense slowed down, but the defense picked up the slack. When Lykes sunk his 2 free throws with 6:17 remaining, Miami took its largest lead of the game at 7 points. The Hurricanes were potentially just a few buckets away from burying an inferior opponent.

Instead, guard Anthony Lawrence missed a layup and Vasiljevic missed a 3. Lykes misfired on another pair of 3-point attempts and Lonnie Walker couldn’t get another layup to go. Boston College chipped away enough to eventually put the pressure on Miami to score.

Two weeks ago, this is where the Hurricanes would have turned to Brown. Despite his struggles this season, the sophomore could at least be counted on to get a decent shot up when all else failed. Even if he couldn’t hit, he could give Miami a chance.

Since Brown went down, this job has mostly fallen to Walker and nearly every time he’s delivered. The star shooting guard was the Hurricanes’ leading scorer in four of the five games leading into the weekend.

On Saturday, Walker went into the final minutes with only 6 points and it was where he finished. He followed a missed layup at the 1:44 mark with a pair of missed 3s during the next minute. Neither was easy to get off, but during Miami’s recent winning streak they were the sort of shots the freshman could get to go down.

A select few freshmen can shoulder the sort of burden Walker is without ever crumbling. After weeks of unflappable play, the guard finally shrunk. For the first time since Brown suffered a foot injury, the Hurricanes couldn’t make do without their go-to guard.

The post Miami basketball: Hurricanes’ offense collapses against Boston College appeared first on Diehards.

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