The seventy-plus point-per-game average was reduced to 45 at Clemson and 54 against Virginia. Gaudy stats like 3-of-19 from behind the arc. A .346 shooting percentage against the Tigers and .385 versus the visiting Cavaliers, both games bailed out by some last-minute magic.
All and any pixie dust failed to surface in Raleigh-Durham this past weekend when second-ranked Miami was upended by Wake Forest, 80-65, in a game that was never really close, despite a few second-half rallies.
There haven’t been many games this season where the Hurricanes failed to show up, but this was one of them. Shane Larkin mentioned post-game that his squad seemed flat in warm-ups and a step behind.
“You could just see it tonight. I had a bad feeling coming into warm-ups with everybody going slow,” Larkin said. “I was trying to get people to go fast, and I wasn’t even going full speed like I should have.
“Overall, we weren’t prepared before the game and they came out and punched us in the mouth.”
Miami led 15-14 after five minutes, but from there Wake began to take over. The Canes went ice cold with everyone seemingly off. Reggie Johnson was missing layups. Durand Scott and Julian Gamble, routine jumpers.
Larkin. Rion Brown. Kenny Kadji. Trey McKinney-Jones. No one could convert and in a flash, the Demon Deacons led, 27-17, fueled by back-to-back three-point daggers from C.J. Harris, who finished with 23 points.
Wake led 42-29 at the half, but Miami began to narrow the gap a few minutes into the second half, pulling to within five, down 48-43 with 13:53 remaining.
From there, disaster road as a 50-45 deficit was followed by a twelve-point Wake Forest run that proved to be the dagger. Miami trailed by double-digits the rest of the game, eventually falling by fifteen and absorbing its first conference setback and first overall loss since Christmas Day in Hawai’i.
While it’d have been amazing to watch Miami’s run continue, crazy as this may sound, this loss may have come at the perfect time. Release some pressure. Hit reset. Regroup, refocus and get back after it.
A number-two ranking? A fourteen-game win-streak? Undefeated in ACC play with five games remaining entering this past weekend?
Miami has spent the past few months in uncharted waters, beginning with a 68-59 win over North Carolina on January 10th. Weeks later, the twenty-seven point shellacking of then-top ranked Duke, which put the then-twenty-fifth ranked Canes on the map.
Reality kicked in for most on February 2nd when Miami stole one at North Carolina State, courtesy of a Johnson tip-in in the final second.
The Wolfpack are a solid team and the nationally televised CBS showdown appeared to have ‘loss’ written all over it, Miami down three with just under a minute remaining. Instead, the Canes scored the final four with two Durand Scott free throws and the Johnson put-back.
‘The Streak’ extended to nine and the stakes were raised.
Convincing wins over Boston College and North Carolina – a twenty-six point beat-down at The BUC – were followed by a gutsy six-point win at Florida State, making it twelve straight.
Then came Clemson and Virginia and this team’s first real funk since early in the season.
As a result, the loss takes the pressure off the machine continuing to roll on and puts the focus back on fundamentals and starting a new run.
Second-year coach Jim Larranaga will now lean on decades worth of experience and will teach his kids how to regroup. Focus on where this thing went off the tracks, get it back in and close strong.
Virginia Tech visits on Wednesday and Saturday is the highly-anticipated rematch at Duke. From there, two more home games – where Miami remains undefeated – to close out the season, with Georgia Tech and Clemson rolling south on Wednesday and Saturday.
Larranaga decided days back to limit media access with the players, but as of Monday morning backed off that stance. He originally cited timing and the fact that this recent run has put his team in the media spotlight more than normal, which has limited the time coaches have with the kids.
He also acknowledged that opposing teams are doing some things to Miami’s offense which will be corrected, while pointing out some lethargy and a lack of discipline on the Canes’ end, as UM didn’t defend well in Saturday’s loss.
What might be seen as a negative turn in the storyline of the 2013 season, could prove to be something positive. A small step back which could result in a huge step forward.
Let the streak die and start a new one. The goal this year is a high seed in the NCAA Tourney and a memorable run, with the ultimate dream of bringing home a national championship.
There are several mini-seasons with the entire year’s run. That moment when Miami fell to Florida Gulf Coast, causing questions as to if this team was legit, or not.
The early season upset over perennial powerhouse Michigan State, which helped ease the pain of the early FGCU upset.
The Diamondhead Classic, where Miami topped Hawai’i soon after the long cross-country flight, but fell to Arizona and the Indiana State in the consolation game.
From there, the season within the season where Miami won fourteen straight, dominating the ACC and beating North Carolina (twice!) and Duke, severely, at that.
Now a new season, coming off a loss and regrouping with four to play. From there, the ACC Tourney and March Madness will be seasons of their own, but for now, the subplot is bouncing back and closing the regular season strong.
Miami was flat-out humbled at Wake Forest and as much as that stings, it was a necessary evil after lethargic and unspirited performance against Clemson and Virginia.
Earning the NCAA berth was the original goal, but now it’s all about seeding that a win in Durham is the key for Miami – while not giving away home games against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or Clemson in the process.
Coach L has guided these kids brilliantly through so many seasons within this season and based on how he’s reacting after this recent loss, one would be hard-pressed to believe he doesn’t have the answer for the bounce-back.
Miami takes on Virginia Tech at 7pm ET on Wednesday night at The BUC and only a few hundred tickets remain. Support #OperationSellout and do your part in sending the Hokies back to Blacksburg with a loss.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.