Wake Forest ended the game on a 29-14 run, but Miami did just enough down the stretch to escape with a 74-72 win in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
“The ACC Tournament is really like the NCAA Tournament. It’s survive and advance,” UM head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “We’re very very fortunate. We played an outstanding Wake Forest team. They made a great run at the end … We’re happy with where we are.”
Jordan Miller scored a game-high 18 points and told ESPN after the win that the Hurricanes’ “poise” is what led the team in the later stages of the game.
Wake Forest entered this contest after an exhilarating second-round matchup against Syracuse. The Demon Deacons scored the game’s last five to secure the three-point win and set up a quarterfinals showdown against the Hurricanes, which enjoyed a double-bye after capturing the No. 1 seed for the tournament.
Miami and Wake Forest (19-14) previously faced off against each other on Feb. 18, with UM prevailing, 96-87, in a high-scoring contest. Star guard Tyree Appleby struggled in this matchup, turning the ball over a career-high 12 times.
These woes carried over into the first half of the rematch, as Appleby missed his first six field goals. The senior guard eventually found his rhythm, knocking down four of his next five shots.
Appleby ended with 24 points, 15 of which were in the second half, five rebounds and five assists. He finished second in the ACC Player of the Year voting behind Miami’s Isaiah Wong.
Miller paced Miami’s offense in the first half. The veteran guard was a force in the paint, utilizing his footwork and his rebounding instincts to score 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. He also grabbed six boards, five of which were offensive, in the half.
“[Miller’s] the most underrated player in the country,” Larrañaga said. “Jordan Miller is a fantastic player and we needed everything he did today, especially in the first half when we got off to a slow start. He kept us in the lead.”
Miami (25-6) entered the break with a five-point lead after making 11 of its last 17 field goals to end the period. Miller, along with Wong and forward Norchad Omier, combined for 29 of UM’s 34 first-half points.
The Hurricanes stormed out to an 18-point lead after Nijel Pack’s layup with 9:51 left in the second half. UM made 11 of its first 13 field goals of the final period, including four of its first six shots from deep.
Pack only scored seven points but still made a large impact on the outcome of the game. He was one of the primary defenders matched up on Appleby and finished with five rebounds, tying his season high.
Miami will play next in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. against the winner of Duke and Pittsburgh. UM split the season series with both teams.
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