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UM loses 88-71 to No. 11 FSU, Larranaga says Seminoles good enough to win NCAA title

Michelle Kaufman
·4 min read

It was evident even before tipoff that the Miami Hurricanes were probably in for a long Wednesday night. Only eight players were in uniform for UM, two of them walk-ons, and across the Watsco Center court were 19 Florida State Seminoles looking pumped for the game.

FSU showed why it is ranked No. 11 in the nation and sitting atop the ACC standings. Deeper, taller and more efficient than the Canes, the Seminoles went on a 17-2 run early, subbed multiple players at a time, and rolled to an 88-71 win.

Four minutes into the game, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton subbed in four players at once, like a hockey line change, a hint of what was to come. By the end of the night, 13 Seminoles had played and 10 had scored.

The stat of the night: The FSU bench outscored the UM bench 57-5.

It was the ninth win in the past 10 games for FSU, which raised its record to 14-3 overall and 10-2 in the conference. The Seminoles have won seven games in a row over the Hurricanes, who slipped to 7-14 and 3-13 in the ACC. Miami has lost eight of its past nine games with road games coming up Saturday at Clemson and Monday at Virginia.

“I thought our guys gave it everything they had,” said UM coach Jim Larranaga. “Our effort from start to finish was good. We’re just worn out, completely, and we played against a Florida State team that is as talented as any team I’ve seen in the country. I think they have a legitimate chance not only to win the ACC regular season, but the tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

“They’re big. They’re athletic. They pass the ball and share it very well. They shoot the three, they offensive rebound. I don’t see any weaknesses.”

FSU boasts the highest-scoring offense in the ACC, and showed it with 88 points on 54 percent shooting. They are the stingiest percentage defense in the league, and held UM to 34 percent shooting.

As usual, Hurricanes sophomore guard Isaiah Wong shouldered the load, scoring a game-high 29 points, one shy of his career high. It wasn’t enough. Kam McGusty and Anthony Walker had 12 points each and Elijah Olaniyi chipped in 11. Walk-on Willie Herenton played 11 minutes and had five points, two rebounds and an assist.

Wong’s performance was especially impressive considering he missed the second half of Saturday’s Georgia Tech game after spraining an ankle.

“He spent more time in the training room treating that ankle, and thank goodness he did,” Larranaga said. “He played at a very high level, especially at the offensive end. He gives a great effort every day.”

UM’s roster has been decimated by injuries all season. Guards Chris Lykes (ankle) and Harlond Beverly (back) remained out, along with Earl Timberlake (shoulder), Rodney Miller (back) and Sam Waardenburg (foot), all of whom are out for the season.

Olaniyi got a knee in the thigh Wednesday night, and Larranaga said he was “very concerned” about it and is unsure how quickly he will recover.

RaiQuan Gray of Ft. Lauderdale Dillard High had 10 points and a career-high 13 rebounds for Florida State, his third double-double this season. Sandaar Calhoun, playing in place of injured M.J. Walker (ankle), scored a career-high 16 points. Center Balsa Koprivica had 13 points and Anthony Polite of St. Andrews in Boca Raton had 12.

The Seminoles led 49-28 by halftime, the 16th time in 17 games this season that they led at the break.

Larranaga said considering their deficiencies, he was pleased with his players’ efforts.

“We don’t really have a point guard. Isaiah’s doing what he can, but normally we have someone running the team with him doing the scoring,” the coach said. “There’s too many obstacles in our way for us to executive at both ends the way we want to.”

Before the game, Larranaga urged his players to get back on defense and to play their hearts out.

“We left it all on the court,” Wong said. “Half the guys out there had injuries, and we’re all going through a struggle, but we all played our hearts out and we’ll keep doing that all season.”