The Miami Hurricanes, who are set to host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in an ACC game on Saturday afternoon, are expecting a radically different strategy from what they faced in their most recent appearance.
Miami (7-12, 3-11) lost to Notre Dame, 71-61, on Sunday night. The Hurricanes turned the ball over just five times in that game.
"Notre Dame does not try to force turnovers," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Georgia Tech tries to turn you over every time. They try to steal it, they grab, they foul. Notre Dame is the opposite. They never foul."
Indeed, Georgia Tech (10-8, 6-6) is second in the ACC in steals per game (8.9). Notre Dame is last (4.0).
Miami is in the red on turnover margin this season (minus-0.37 per game), which means the Hurricanes will have to watch Georgia Tech's quick hands on steal attempts.
As for the history of this series, the Hurricanes lead 14-10, including 7-4 in Miami. The last time they played was in February of last season, and Georgia Tech won at home, 63-57. The Jackets led that game by 20 points in the second half, but Miami rallied to take the lead before faltering.
"They have a really good team," Larranaga said of Georgia Tech. "You have to be strong with the ball. You have to be aware every time you make a pass. They change their defenses regularly. We have to identify it and then know our game plan against each defense."
The Jackets, who are coming off a 71-65 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday, are an experienced team. Their top six players feature four seniors and two juniors.
Senior Jose Alvarado leads the ACC in steals (2.8) and free-throw percentage (86.0). He also leads Tech in scoring (16.8), assists (4.1), two-point percentage (59.7) and three-point percentage (41.6).
"Alvarado is a nuisance," Larranaga said. "He's an all-conference player. He keeps his dribble alive, and he finds the open man -- very hard to guard."
Moses Wright, another senior, ranks second on the Jackets in scoring (16.4) while leading the team in rebounds (7.3) and blocks (1.8).
Tech's Michael Devoe, who averages 13.9 points, said the Jackets have been resilient all season.
"In basketball, there are going to be ups and downs," said Devoe, the 42nd player in Tech history to score 1,000 career points. "But we feel like we can beat anybody."
To Devoe's point, the Jackets already have knocked off three Top-25 teams this season.
Miami, which has one such victory this season, has lost two straight games and six of its past seven.
The Hurricanes, who have just seven scholarship players healthy and available, are led in scoring by guard Isaiah Wong (17.4), who ranks fourth in the ACC in that category -- one spot ahead of Alvarado and two better than Wright.
In addition, 6-9 sophomore forward Anthony Walker is starting to emerge. He averaged just 6.7 points in his first 12 games. In his past six games, he is averaging 12.0.
--Field Level Media