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Injuries keeping Hurricanes from consistent success in ACC play, hurting NCAA Tournament chances

Whenever the Hurricanes get a player back from injury, another key contributor seems to get banged up.

Miami (15-9, 6-7 ACC) has been unranked for two months and is in the middle of the pack of the ACC, largely because the Hurricanes have not gotten into a consistent form as players move in and out of the lineup with minor injuries.

Against Virginia on Feb. 5, freshman starter Kyshawn George suffered an ankle injury minutes into the game, which caused him to miss UM’s loss to UNC on Saturday. In the second half against the Tar Heels, Nijel Pack suffered a minor knee injury, which may have slowed him down following an 18-point first half.

“The injury status, I can tell you, is day-to-day,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said Monday.

The good news for the Hurricanes is Larrañaga said Pack and George were expected to practice Monday in the leadup to Wednesday’s road game against Clemson (16-7, 6-6 ACC).

“Nijel and Kyshawn might be limited to either non-contact or just half-court (in practice),” Larrañaga said before the practice. “So we’ll see.”

George warmed up before Saturday’s game before sitting out, and Pack said after the game that he expects to play Wednesday. Pack finished the loss to UNC with 20 points on 47 percent shooting.

“It shouldn’t be (an issue),” Pack said. “We have a great training staff with Sam Johnson in my corner. He really does a good job helping me get through injuries, nagging pain and things like that. So I’m going to go see him, spend a lot of time with him and make sure I get ready for the next game.”

Miami needed to rely on backups with other players injured on Saturday. Bensley Joseph got another start against the Tar Heels, and redshirt sophomore Jakai Robinson played a season-high 12 minutes in just his 10th game of the year.

“The difficult part for us is we’re not that deep,” Larrañaga said after the loss to UNC. “We have 11 scholarship players. A lot of teams have 13. And we always have some key guy hurt. Today it was Kyshawn George. So you’re always changing your starting lineup, you’re changing your rotation. This time of the year, that’s really difficult.”

The Hurricanes are battling for postseason position and they need every win they can manage. Miami has a Quadrant 1 game against Clemson on Wednesday. The Tigers beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill last week, but the Hurricanes beat Clemson in Coral Gables on Jan. 3.

“I think they’re doing a great job,” Larrañaga said. “They’re having a heckuva season, but we had a heckuva game with them early in January. They’ve continued to play well. They’re on a roll right now. Obviously, playing at home is a tremendous advantage for them. They get a great turnout. They’ve got great, great fan support. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.

“The only thing I would say is for us, I thought we played well enough to win the other day. But we didn’t win, and that’s unfortunate. Hopefully, we can play well enough and be healthy enough to finish these games better than we have.”