Swoon in Miami for WVU lifts Hurricanes to hoops win
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Miami had to survive big foul trouble, and because the Hurricanes managed that, they survived West Virginia.
The Mountaineers had a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but Miami guard Malcolm Grant led the Hurricanes back for a 79-76 basketball victory at BankAmerica Center on Saturday.
"It was as much stuff we didn't do as what they did," WVU guard Truck Bryant said. "We just made way too many mistakes."
West Virginia (5-2), which comes home to face Robert Morris (4-3) on Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum, won the backboard battle and had only a one turnover deficit (12-11) to the Hurricanes.
However, Miami (6-2) shot 54 percent in the final 20 minutes, and down the stretch spread the floor to alleviate WVU's pressure, isolated and kicked to open shooters or drivers and took the game away from Coach Bob Huggins' club before a crowd of 6,548.
Miami big men Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble were saddled with serious foul woes. Johnson, the 6-foot-10, 303-pounder, got his fourth with 15:12 left and the 6-9 Gamble's fourth came only 15 seconds later.
"Definitely, their big guys are a key part of their team," WVU forward Kevin Jones said of the Mountaineers' expectation that they had the hurricanes where they wanted them. "We had them on the bench, and their shooters weren't getting open shots and hitting them."
Jones' coach didn't agree that WVU had an upper hand when the two Miami big men were saddled with fouls.
"I never feel like we're in good shape," Huggins said. "We haven't finished games."
WVU had a chance to send it to overtime, but turned it over on the last possession when Jonnie West tried to get the ball to Casey Mitchell, and Miami took it away just before the horn sounded.
West wasn't behind the 3-point arc when he caught the ball, so he tried to get it to Mitchell.
"The play was designed for either one of them," Huggins said.
Grant, a Villanova transfer in his second Miami season, was superb down the stretch. His career-high 26-point effort included 13-of-14 free throws, and all eight Miami points in a 27-second span when the 'Canes went from a 62-58 deficit to a 66-64 edge with 3:58 to go.
Grant gave much credit, however, to teammate Adrian Thomas, who came off the Miami bench to hit four 3-pointers - including two on consecutive UM possessions during the beginning of west Virginia's meltdown.
"Adrian hit those big shots and you could just feel the momentum shift our way," Grant said. "We just took it over from there."
Miami scored 38 points in the final 12 minutes, mostly through its spread and isolate sets, and what Huggins called WVU's continual overrunning the ball.
"Coach (Frank Haith) calls that whenever he feel a team is pressuring us and frustrating us," Grant said. "He tells us to go wide to give us an opportunity to create for ourselves or somebody else."
In a stretch of 4:15, WVU went six possessions with only a John Flowers dunk for a score, as a 54-41 bulge became only a four-point lead, 56-52. Thomas' two crucial threes came in that stretch, too.
"Our team just collapsed, all of us," Flowers said. "This is one of the toughest losses we've had in my years (at WVU)."
While West Virginia got 20 points from Bryant and 18 from Mitchell, it couldn't take any offensive advantage of the prolonged absences of Johnson and Gamble, who combined to play only 38 minutes.
Huggins' three men he tried in the post - Deniz Kilicli, Danny Jennings and Cam Thoroughman, combined for only four points and 10 rebounds. Kilicli, who started went scoreless with one rebound.
"We thought we were fine when the big guys got into foul trouble," Bryant said. "Then we started making mistakes ... everyone. We overran the ball (on defense) and we did it as a unit.
"The spreading it and isolating? Teams are going to do that to us the whole year. We've got to get better at guarding the ball, on-the-ball defense, way better."