The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Shane Larkin’s poise with the game on the line pushes Miami past Virginia

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Shane Larkin and Miami celebrate a 54-50 victory over Virginia (Getty Images)

On the same day as the NCAA delivered Miami's notice of allegations stemming from the Nevin Shapiro scandal, point guard Shane Larkin made sure the mood of Hurricane fans wouldn't be all doom and gloom.

Larkin showed great poise under pressure finding Reggie Johnson under the basket for the game-winning layup with 5.7 seconds remaining, propelling second-ranked Miami to a hard-fought 54-50 home win over Virginia.

Having surrendered the last of a seven-point second-half lead on Evan Nolte's game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, Miami turned to Larkin to create a final-possession scoring opportunity off a high ball screen. Virginia strung out the ball screen effectively, but in their zeal to close out on shooter Kenny Kadji at the top of the key Akil Mitchell and Paul Jesperson left Johnson alone in the paint, enabling Larkin to whip a pass into him for a layup.

''We left the rim unprotected,'' Virginia coach Tony Bennett told reporters after the game. ''For playing such a sound game defensively, it does sting to give them one at the rim. You want them to at least earn it. Make them hit a contested shot, and obviously that was an uncontested shot.''

Any chance Virginia had at a rebuttal then disappeared on the ensuing inbound pass when a careless play by Jesperson came back to haunt the Cavs. Durand Scott stepped in front of Jesperson's pass, drew a foul and clinched the game with a pair of free throws to extend the lead to four.

Miami's victory preserves its unbeaten ACC record and keeps the Hurricanes on pace for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The last two wins have been a little close for comfort, however, as Clemson and Virginia have both kept Miami's vaunted offense in check and pushed the Hurricanes to the final possession.

While both the Tigers and Cavaliers are two of the ACC's best defensive teams, their ability to disrupt Miami's ball screen-heavy offense has been a bit alarming. On the other hand, it's beneficial for the Hurricanes to prove they can grind out slow-paced, low-scoring wins in league play because they'll surely have to do that in the NCAA tournament as well.

Larkin led the Hurricanes with 11 points and six assists on Tuesday night in a game when Miami shot just 1 of 7 from behind the arc and didn't generate many second-chance opportunities. The Hurricanes made up for it with sound defense, holding typically 3-point happy Virginia to 5 of 15 from behind the arc and 38.5 percent shooting for the game.

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