Miami men’s basketball had not experienced a losing month since February 2021, but the Hurricanes were at risk of doing just that against the Hokies. They were facing a five-point second-half deficit and a possible 3-5 record in the month of January.
Nijel Pack made sure this didn’t happen.
The sophomore guard scored all 17 of his points in the game’s final eight minutes, leading No. 23 Miami to an important 92-83 win.
“Insane,” Pack said when asked to describe how he felt during his scoring stretch in one word. “I feel like if I would’ve shot it from half court, I could’ve messed around and made it. My teammates believed in each shot I took … It was really fun to play with this crowd behind me.”
In addition to Pack’s second-half stardom, UM’s scoring eruption was led by Nicaraguan forward Norchad Omier, who had a team-high 21 points in front of a packed crowd at the Watsco Center celebrating Miami’s “International Night.”
The Hokies started off the game red-hot offensively. They made their first six shots – two of which were from behind the arc – and raced out to a 16-9 lead at the first media timeout.
Miami answered by going on a 15-2 scoring run that featured four Virginia Tech turnovers. Fourth-year guard Isaiah Wong scored nine of his 18 points during this stretch.
Wong has had much success in his seven career games against the Hokies, scoring in double figures in each matchup and averaging 16.6 points per contest. He also finished with a career-high five steals.
“He got himself going tonight,” Larrañaga said. “We were running stuff to see if we could get him the ball.”
The two teams continued trading baskets throughout the rest of the half, as Miami (17-5, 8-4 ACC) held a 45-44 lead at the break. Both teams shot over 60 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.
This was the fourth time in the month of January that the Hurricanes had shot at least 60 percent or better in a half.
The start to the second half for Virginia Tech was similar to that of the first.
The Hokies (13-9, 3-8 ACC) reclaimed their lead and extended it to five with 8:20 left in the game. This was partly due to their offensive efficiency, as they nailed 10 of their first 14 shots of the closing period.
This initial success on offense was short-lived, as Virginia Tech failed to score a field goal during the final 4:55 of the contest. Miami ended the game on a 16-7 scoring run.
“We just got to keep getting better, stop beating ourselves … credit to all the teams we’ve played, they’re great teams,” UM guard Jordan Miller said about his team’s mindset following the win. “Control the controllables. Turnovers, fouls, just late down the stretch. I think we’ll be in a good spot come February and March.”
Miami’s first matchup of February will come on Saturday at 3 p.m. against No. 20 Clemson at the Littlejohn Coliseum. The game will air on ACC Network.
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