RALEIGH — The Miami Hurricanes played one of their best offensive games of the year and posted an 86-81 win over NC State at PNC Arena on Sunday.
The Canes had been averaging just 73 points per game this season, just below 68 points in ACC games, but with the Wolfpack’s pressing defense upping the tempo, NC State played right into Miami coach Jim Larranaga’s hands.
“I’m more comfortable with this than what I’ve been seeing,” Larranaga said. “The talent that we have is more suited for an open-court game than it is a prize fight, a football game in the paint.”
The tempo was more of a footrace than a contact sport, and Miami appeared to have the edge.
“I thought there was some great end-to-end action,” Larranaga said. “We scored, and they scored like three seconds later. … That kind of end-to-end action is how we would prefer to play, but you need the other team to agree to it.”
State was willing to speed up the game, in the hopes of turning Miami over with its press. The Canes had just 10 giveaways on the day, however, to State’s 15.
The pace also helped cure some of Miami’s other ills. Shooting just .347 on 3-pointers coming into the game, Miami hit 10 of 19 from long range. After having just 30 combined assists in their last three games, the Hurricanes had a season-high 26 on Sunday.
Both statistics were related and a key component of Larranaga’s game plan.
“We had a meeting with our three veteran guards and talked all about that,” he said. “We’ll shoot the ball so much better if guys are getting touches. … We established a pattern in practice of really moving the basketball and getting everybody a touch before we shot it. We didn’t do it all the time, but we did it enough.”
“That’s called good coaching,” said State coach Kevin Keatts. “I know Jim has been concerned about his team not shooting the ball or sharing the basketball, and give them credit. I thought they came out and did a tremendous job of sharing the basketball. … They passed the ball well, which led to some good shots for them.”
The Pack also moved the ball well, getting 22 assists on 31 made shots, its highest total in ACC play. State was led by point guard Markell Johnson, who dished out 14 assists in his first start since returning from suspension.
“I thought we did a good job offensively. We shared the basketball,” Keatts said. “(Johnson) is coming along … He was playing pretty well and sharing the basketball. I want him to look for his shot a little more. He is a kid who is happy having 14 assists without scoring.”
Forward Omer Yurtseven led the Pack with 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting. He also pulled down a team-high six rebounds. His presence inside kept State in the game, but the Pack never seemed to get over the hump.
“We never could just go over that barrier, I guess,” Yurtseven said. “It’s, again, a mental thing for us. I feel like our minds were just stuck at the fact that we just can’t get over a one- or two-point deficit. That’s what we just had going, that was holding us back the whole game.”
The Pack fell to 3-4 in the conference and will travel to Pitt on Wednesday before next Saturday’s rivalry game at North Carolina.