Seminoles pull away from Hurricanes in second half

The Atlantic Coast Conference is a beast this year. Like usual, but more so. Higher-ranked teams have lost on the road with greater regularity.

Unfortunately for the Miami Hurricanes, they didn’t play their part in that narrative Wednesday night.

Miami (14-7, 4-5 ACC) lost to No. 15 Florida State 75-57, with the visitors holding a rolling rally in the Watsco Center and the home team looking as inconsistent as ever.

There was plenty of rivalry-born flavor in the building, like sometimes-profane crowd chants. The healthy contingent of Seminoles fans had the final say, gloating as the building began to empty late in the second half.

But put that aside. Miami had the No. 15 team at home, and a seven-point lead late in the first half, and the sold-out place (7,972) energized, smelling an upset.

That’s why the Canes may eventually recall it as a missed opportunity to add a key piece to their NCAA tournament résumé.

This loss came from a 19-4 FSU run, which Miami surrendered from the final minute of the first half through the first eight of the second. It went scoreless for more than six minutes. Miami fell behind by as many as 11 in that stretch, before FSU blew it open by 22 late.

The Hurricanes couldn’t hit a big shot or get the stops to overcome the Seminoles (19-4, 7-3). It was shades of their Jan. 21 loss at No. 18 Duke, when they led by 11 at halftime but lost by 12.

“The teams we’re playing are great teams,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said. “They have the ability — just like we do.”

That’s the maddening thing about this youthful, shorthanded Miami team, which goes about seven deep and has just two seniors. It did a lot of good. It drove right at FSU’s taller defenders to pick up fouls, often beat the man-to-man press the Noles employed, and made 17-of-22 free throws.

But the Hurricanes hit just 2-of-11 3s, the last of which came late in a rout, and assisted five of their 19 baskets. Key ballhandlers Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown combined for nine of Miami’s 14 turnovers.

“We couldn’t make passes,” Larranaga said. “We tried and couldn’t get the ball to them.”

Brown, the freshman guard who scored 30 points in Miami’s win over No. 9 North Carolina last Saturday, finished with 17 points, on 4-of-10 shooting, and five rebounds.

“They just packed the lane,” Brown said. “We couldn’t get in the lane and have easy opportunities. Their length messed us up a little bit.”

Newton and Davon Reed added 12 points each.

Two of the Seminoles’ several NBA draft prospects, 6-10 freshman Jonathan Isaac and 6-7 guard Dwayne Bacon, led their team with 15.

Aside from last week’s win over UNC and a road blowout at Pittsburgh, UM’s eye-grabbing nights are few. Nine ACC games remain before the ACC Tournament (March 7-11 in Brooklyn). North Carolina State awaits Saturday in Raleigh.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said he thinks as many as 11 ACC teams could make the NCAA Tournament, even carrying as many as 10 losses. The Hurricanes would like to avoid that territory, but it’s well within reach.

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