For the second time in three weeks, Miami stood toe-to-toe with Syracuse.
But just as it did earlier this month when it escaped with a five-point win, the nation’s second-ranked team used its experience and poise to hold off the upstart Hurricanes, who trailed by as many as 18 on Saturday before making it a game and even taking the slimmest of leads in the second half.
Ultimately though, Syracuse converted on key, well-timed shots in the final minutes to distance itself en route to a 64-52 win over Miami at the BankUnited Center.
Moments after Miami took a 47-46 lead after when Davon Reed was able to convert on a 3-point play with 8:20 left, Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis, who was one of four Orange players to finish in double figures, answered, converting on a 3-point play of his own and adding a jumper on the Orange’s next possession.
A few minutes later, with Syracuse clinging to a 3-point lead with 2:25 remaining, guard Trevor Cooney drained his third 3-pointer of the afternoon giving the Orange a 56-50 lead that proved too much for Miami to overcome, especially after the Hurricanes (10-9, 2-5 ACC) were forced to finish the game without forward James Kelly who injured his left ankle late in the second half.
“I thought that was a very, very good college basketball game right up until maybe the last minute and a half,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I thought we were right where we needed to be, where we wanted to be, but Syracuse is that good. Tyler Ennis is that good. I told our players, ‘This is when he starts to attack, six, seven minutes left in the game.’ He’s did it up at their place when we played them, he did it against Pittsburgh, he did it at Boston College. He’s just an outstanding freshman…He’s so calm out there, you don’t really see that in a college player unless he’s just so highly skilled and Tyler Ennis is...I only wish we’d figured out a way to win this one.”
As thrilling as the final minutes were for Miami, midway through the first half, it looked as if the Hurricanes were in danger of being run out of their own building, a building which Saturday accommodated an announced crowd of 7,122, many of whom sported Syracuse orange.
The Orange, who shot 55 percent in the first half, built an 18-point lead on the strength of a 16-1 run that lasted nearly seven minutes before Miami finally found life thanks in part to its perimeter shooting.
First came a three from Garrius Adams. Then another from Manu Lecomte. Threes from Rion Brown and Reed followed, helping Miami close the first half on an 18-5 run that cut Syracuse’s lead to 31-26 at the half.
The Hurricanes, who put together their second-best 3-point shooting effort of the season, got more long shots in the opening minutes of the second half to continue putting pressure on Syracuse (19-0, 6-0).
But while Reed finished with a team-high 16 points and Brown added 13, Miami couldn’t hang on as Jerami Grant had 16 points for Syracuse and Ennis added 14.
“I really didn’t think that they played that well in the second half, but one thing they do excellent is just closing out down the stretch,” Reed said. “They really do a good job of having poise down the stretch, something we try to emphasize. They were able to get the win. They did the little things.”
email@example.com; Follow on Twitter @ChristyChirinos.