Miami basketball: Lonnie Walker caps comeback against Boston College

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. — With 8 seconds left, whatever was left of the 7,010 inside the Watsco Center were starting to get restless. Miami basketball trailed Boston College by 2 and Lonnie Walker dribbled somewhat aimlessly on the left wing with Luka Kraljevic inches in front of him.

The clock ticked to less than 6 seconds and the freshman drifted to his right. Walker jabbed to the 3-point line and drew some help his way. The clock ticked inside 5 seconds and the star shooting guard stepped back outside as Dewan Huell dove free to the rim. With four 4 seconds left, Walker pulled up from 3 anyway. With 2.3 seconds to go, the Hurricanes took a 79-78 lead.

“It was kind of like this team became the strongest team on earth,” Walker said after the game “I got punched in my chest numerous times, head butts and everything. That’s the energy that we need.”

The Eagles threw a desperation pass to midcourt after a timeout and Miami broke it up. The Hurricanes’ lead held in Coral Gables. From a 14-point deficit with fewer than 6 minutes remaining, Miami (20-8, 9-7 ACC) turned an almost certain loss into its most thrilling win of the season. It was a potentially season-saving win and a statement shot for Walker, who could be a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

A steady comeback across 6 minutes became a whirlwind during the final two. A flurry of steals, drawn charges, and-1s and 3-pointers — plus some missed free throws by the Eagles — made Boston College’s 9-point lead shrivel to 2 with 18 seconds left.

Freshman guard Chris Lykes ran the offense for the Hurricanes’ final possession. He had guided most of the comeback, with 7 points, 2 assists, a steal and a drawn charge during the final 2 minutes, and coach Jim Larranaga wanted him to run the final possession.

The freshman wheeled around the 3-point line, going to right wing as Dejan Vasiljevic curled past him. Vasiljevic, if all went well, would get a chance for a 3, but the Eagles (16-13, 6-10) cut him off. The guard threw to the bailout option. Walker went to work for the final 3 of his 14 points.

“We like Lonnie having the ball at the end of the game because he can create his own shot,” Larranaga said during his postgame news conference. “He just took it upon himself and made a great play.”

Walker’s shot will be the moment to remember. It wouldn’t have happened without one of the most improbable comebacks of the season for this young Miami team.

With 5:51 left, Boston College guard Jerome Robinson sunk a pair of free throws to stretch the Eagles’ lead to 69-55. Miami had been unable to stop the Eagles and mostly unable to score outside of second-chance points.

By the 2-minute mark, though, the Hurricanes had trimmed Boston College’s lead to 73-64. Lykes had just missed a 3 and Ky Bowman tried to get the ball up court after a rebound. Lykes pressed anyway and stripped the Boston College guard. He slithered to the rim and dropped in an and-1 against Bowman.

A possession later, Lykes darted to the rim again. He whipped a pass out to the corner, where guard Anthony Lawrence drilled a 3. Lykes pressed Bowman again and this time he drew a charge, fouling out the sophomore. Lykes added two more free throws on the ensuing possession. With 1:28 to go, Lykes had almost singlehandedly gotten the Eagles’ lead down to 75-72.

“He kind of brought us from Level 5 to Level 10,” Walker said of Lykes, who finished with 15 points. “He brought the energy, brought us all the extra batteries that we needed for us to wake up and we took off from there.”

No matter how good Lykes was, though, Miami needed help from Boston College. The Eagles are typically a middle-of-the-pack team at three free-throw line, a few points better than 70 percent at the stripe. On Saturday, the Eagles unraveled.

Miami basketball-Boston College basketball-box score

Another assist from Lykes to Vasiljevic kept the Hurricanes down 3 with a minute left and a foul by Lykes sent Nik Popovic with 38 seconds remaining. The Boston College forward couldn’t have been less comfortable. He airballed his first attempt then bricked the second. Two free throws by Lykes on the other end trimmed the lead to 77-76 before Kraljevic went to the line for the Eagles.

The forward gave Miami another gift: a third missed free throw during the final 40 seconds. The freshman split the pair and the Hurricanes ran their final set.

To about 7,000 people at Watsco, Walker was making a selfish play in lieu of a real offensive set. To the future-first round pick, it was exactly the play he waited on all season.

“I knew there was a few seconds left and I knew that I definitely wanted to take the last shot,” Walker said. “That’s just how I am. I wanted to be the guy to take the final shot and I believe in myself more than anybody else.”

The post Miami basketball: Lonnie Walker caps comeback against Boston College appeared first on Diehards.

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