BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Forecasters who have Miami perched on the NCAA tournament bubble would be smart to give the Hurricanes a second glance.
Despite playing without injured point guard Angel Rodriguez, the ‘Canes got 20 points from Manu Lecomte and used torrid 3-point marksmanship to hammer Virginia Tech 82-61 on Saturday.
Ivan Cruz Uceda came off the bench to add 18 points, as Miami (20-11, 10-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) hit 15 3-pointers in reaching the 20-win mark for the third time in four seasons. The ‘Canes closed the regular season by winning three of their final four and six of their final nine games.
Miami, which won its fifth conference road game, now gears up for the ACC tournament, looking to enhance its prospects of getting an NCAA tournament berth.
”All we can do is continue to play and hope, expect and count on the committee to understand that the ACC is a challenging league,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. ”We’ve won a lot of road games in this conference. Overall our strength of schedule is very good.
”We’re a very good team. If we get invited, we’ve got a chance to do very, very well.”
Miami never trailed in blasting the Hokies (10-21, 2-16), losers of their final seven regular-season games. The ‘Canes dominated the last 15 minutes of the first half to pull away, using separate runs of 10-0 and 13-0 to lead by as many as 29 points.
The ‘Canes buried 10 3-pointers in the first half alone, including four by Lecomte, who scored 14 in the first half. Cruz Uceda added 12 in the first half, including two 3-pointers, and James Palmer hit three 3-pointers en route to nine points.
Miami shot 56.7 percent (17 of 30), including 10 of 16 from beyond the 3-point arc.
”The team did a good job of penetrating and dishing,” Palmer said. ”We were ready to shoot.”
”We didn’t anticipate shooting that many 3’s,” Larranaga said. ”But early in the game, we knocked down a few. We are a 3-point shooting team, and we started a smaller lineup. We shared the ball well offensively, and because we were getting a lot of stops, our stops led to good opportunities to score in transition or in a half-court setting where we got some penetration and kick-outs. Twenty-five is not too many when we’re hitting them, and going 10 for 16 in the first half and 15 for 25 for the game . that’s a very good day for us.”
Virginia Tech shot just 35 percent (7 of 20) and turned the ball over six times in the first half.
”Really bad,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said of his team’s first-half performance. ”It was similar to our first half against Boston College (a 66-59 defeat on Monday night). No good. Not good enough. It’s not what we want to be about as a program. It’s not what we want to be about as a team within the athletic department. It’s very discouraging.”
The Hokies opened the second half with a 10-2 run, cutting a 46-18 halftime deficit to 48-28 on Satchel Pierce’s basket with 15:59 remaining. But the ‘Canes went on a 10-0 run, with four different players scoring, to push the lead to 58-28 and weren’t threatened again.
Lecomte, who hit a career-high five 3-pointers, made 6 of 8 from the floor for Miami. Palmer added a career-high 17 points and hit five 3-pointers.
Ahmed Hill led Virginia Tech with 17 points, while Pierce added a career-high 13.
Miami: Ivan Cruz Uceda had scored in double figures just twice this season coming into the game . James Palmer hadn’t scored in the ‘Canes’ previous four games . Tonye Jekiri scored a career-high 15 against Virginia Tech in the first meeting, but scored just four in this game . Rodriguez, who missed his second straight game with an ankle injury, made the trip, but wasn’t able to go. Larranaga wasn’t sure of Rodriguez’s availability for next week’s ACC tournament.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies honored two seniors – Will Johnston and Christian Beyer – before the game. Both came to Virginia Tech as walk-ons and earned scholarships . Adam Smith had his streak of scoring in double figures snapped at 12 games.
Virginia Tech will play Wake Forest on Tuesday at the ACC tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Miami’s seeding and opponent at the ACC tournament will be determined following other ACC games on Saturday.