Two weeks ago the Miami Hurricanes sat in the home locker room of the Watsco Center reeling from a third consecutive loss.

Sophomore guard Bruce Brown had already been on the shelf a few weeks; sidelined and recovering from foot surgery—and while wins against Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech followed, the Canes’ losing streak couldn’t help but cast doubt regarding the ceiling for this squad without arguably their biggest superstar.

A quirky loss at Boston College—where an ill Jim Larranaga never left the locker room and Miami went scoreless the final 6:17 of the second half, falling by two—was followed up by a offensive-less home showdown against a defensive-minded, top-ranked Virginia squad.

Neither optimum; but both understandable—the Canes gave one away to the Eagles, while not having enough in the tank for the Cavaliers. Where things effectively bottomed-out; the late-February home showdown against a pedestrian Syracuse team that out-gutted Miami and stole a game that should’ve helped the Canes stop the bleeding.

The Orange tore off a 13-3 run to start the second half. Miami scrapped back and tied things up momentarily with just over nine minutes remaining, but Cuse pulled away again and held on for the seven-point victory.

Miami responded days later with a victory at Notre Dame; Larranaga going with a bigger line-up in a game the Canes almost let slip away late. Ja’Quan Newton earned his first start in six game, while Ebuka Izundu saw his first start of the season. The reason for the change was defensive, as Larranaga was frustrated with a lack of effort from Chris Lykes and Lonnie Walker in the loss to the Orange.

Newton and Izundu both got the nod days later when Boston College trekked south, but in the end if was a scrappy effort from Lykes off the bench that allowed Miami to scrap back from 12 points down with just under four minutes remaining. Lykes scored seven of the Canes’ next 10 points, came up with a steal and was credited two assists; including finding Anthony Lawrence who hit a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to five.

Lykes knocked down two more free throws with :29 remaining, cutting the Eagles lead to one—which put Walker in position to knock down a game-winning 3-pointer after BC went 1-of-2 from the line on the ensuing possession.

Miami managed to roll the momentum into a mid-week road showdown with No. 9 North Carolina days later, which saw the Canes falling behind 18-10 early, before taking a 22-21 lead with 8:42 remaining in the first half and eventually a 44-36 lead at intermission.

Miami pushed the lead to 14 less than three minutes into the second half, but the Tar Heels remained resilient and kept chipping away. An 11-point Hurricanes’ lead with 5:55 remaining was was down to three in less in just over two minutes.

Free throws proved key late; Newton knocking down four consecutive over a 15-second span, before dropping a 3-point, game-wining dagger seconds after Joel Berry and North Carolina had tied things up.

The Canes crushed the Tar Heels on senior night, when all of Chapel Hill was honoring the final home game of a class that played a big part in the 2017 national championship. Outside of the thrilling win, the moment served as a reminder that Virginia Tech would look to do the same on Saturday in Coral Gables; the Hokies coming off a senior night home upset of Duke, while jockeying for better position in next week’s ACC Tournament.

Both Miami and Virginia Tech were 10-7 in conference before the regular season finale; the Canes with more to lose and gain, as a victory would propel them to third in the upcoming conference tourney, while a loss would drop UM as far back as seventh, while stripping them of a bye and some extra rest.

Fresh off his clutch play against the Tar Heels, Newton got the start over Lykes, but went 1-of-5 from the field, with only two points on the day—while Lykes went 3-of-7, hit three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points. Dejan Vasiljevic also proved deadly off the bench and beyond-the-arc, knocking down 4-of-6 and finishing with 16 points.

The Canes fell behind 10-2 early, pulled to within one with 9:31 left in the first half and were again behind by 12 with 2:24 left, before a Lykes steal and a few free throws made it 39-32 going into the final half of the regular season.

Lykes, Walker and Lawrence all knocked down 3-pointers in just over two minutes of the second half and a Dewan Huell lay-up at the 17:08 mark gave Miami it’s first lead since 1-0 to start the game.

The Canes pushed the lead to seven at the 12:44 mark, but Justin Robinson and the Hokies continued with their gritty brand of ball. Miami went cold late, while Virginia Tech tore off an 11-2 run—capped by a Chris Clarke lay-up at the 2:45 mark that tied things up, 66-66.

Clarke knocked down a pair of free throws after a foul on Sam Waardenburg, but Walker got it back with a fall-back jumper from the corner that tied things back up.

The Hokies missed a 3-point attempt, but hauled in the rebound and got a second look—but the Canes’ defense clamped down, got the stop and got the rebound with :15 remaining. Robinson fouled a driving Lykes, who earned a one-and-one—hitting his first, missing his second and putting Virginia Tech in position to fire off a miracle shot from well behind half court that had no prayer; Miami holding on for the 69-68 victory.

The Canes have won four in a row by a combined eight points, with each victory decided on the final possession—something the legendary Larranaga hasn’t seen in over four decades of coaching.

“They’re like the cardiac kids,” Larranaga said. “They somehow are enjoying being on the edge at the end of these games.”

Walker built on his coach’s sentiment.

“It’s finally starting to click,” the freshman guard said. “We clicked at the right time—going into the tournament.”

Miami finishes the regular season with a 22-8 record and 11-7 in the ACC; which seemed impossible weeks back when hovering at 7-7 and the middle of the pack. The Canes officially finished fourth in conference for the regular season, losing the tiebreaker to Clemson, who had an identical record—but also a 72-63 home win over Miami in mid-January.

The #3 seed in the ACC Tournament has the Hurricanes resting until Thursday’s Quarterfinals.

Miami will take on the winner of the second round, where sixth-seed North Carolina awaits the winner of No. 11 Syracuse and No. 14 Wake Forest, who play Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Should Miami survive the Quarterfinals, Friday’s Semifinals would pit Miami most-likely against second-seeded Duke; the Blue Devils facing either Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh or Notre Dame, depending how the first two rounds play out in that wave.

Top-seeded Virgina and fourth-seed Clemson look to be the teams to beat in the other bracket—with the conference championship taking place on Saturday morning.

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