No. 22 Virginia downed Miami 46-44 in Coral Gables, Fla. Wednesday night. The Cavaliers (22-7, 14-5 ACC) benefitted from a foul by the Hurricanes (14-15, 6-13 ACC) with eight seconds left, which sent sophomore guard Kihei Clark to the free-throw line. Clark sank both free throws to seize the lead for Virginia, then Miami senior guard Dejan Vasiljevic missed a last second layup attempt with one second left to seal the Cavaliers’ seventh straight win.
Junior forward Jay Huff was a force for Virginia to kick off the game, scoring Virginia’s first 17 points. However, the game proved to be a low-scoring affair from the start, as after the first five minutes, Virginia held a slim 4-2 lead over the Hurricanes.
With 13:44 to play, the two teams started to find a rhythm on offense, combining for 10 points in the following 1:40 to tie the game at 9-9. Miami junior guard Chris Lykes — who has been the Hurricanes’ offensive workhorse this season, averaging over 15 points per game — began to match Huff, scoring five of Miami’s seven points over that stretch.
However, the two teams then proceeded to go on a scoring drought lasting 5:13, each missing crucial chances to take control of the game. Nonetheless, Huff broke the drought with a dunk with 6:51 left in the first frame and drained a three-pointer on the Cavaliers’ next possession to give Virginia a 14-9 lead.
After a jumper by Hurricanes junior center Rodney Miller brought Miami within one possession, Huff sank a three-pointer to reach 17 points on the night. Lykes once again prevented Virginia from extending its lead, converting two jumpers to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 17-15. Clark responded to Lykes’ run with a three-pointer — the first points by Virginia not scored by Huff — but Lykes clapped back with a three-pointer of his own to keep the Hurricanes close.
Senior forward Mamadi Diakite then got on the board with 2:22 to play, scoring inside for his first points of the game, and followed it up with a jumper 1:10 later to extend the Cavaliers’ lead 24-18. However, a three-pointer from senior forward Keith Stone, and a subsequent tough jumper at the buzzer by Lykes sent Virginia to the locker room up 24-23.
The second half saw a continuation of the two teams’ shooting struggles, as the ACC foes missed their first six field goals until Vasiljevic converted a three-pointer to give Miami a 26-24 lead. Both teams continued to trade the lead, often unable to string together scoring runs.
However, with 12:14 left in regulation, Virginia senior guard Braxton Key finished a tough layup inside with both Lykes and Miami junior forward Sam Waardenburg guarding him to put the Cavaliers up 33-30. As Waardenburg came down, his elbow hit the face of Lykes, forcing the dynamic Hurricane guard to sit out the rest of the game. While this briefly stalled Miami’s offensive production, Virginia’s offense was unable to capitalize, allowing the Hurricanes to tie the game at 35 off a Vasiljevic three-pointer with 8:16 left.
Diakite, Clark and Key combined to regain the lead for the Cavaliers, using strong play in the paint to take a 43-39 lead with 4:46 to play. However, the Hurricanes refused to back down, as Stone sank a three-pointer at the 2:17 mark to tie the game at 44.
The teams continued to play suffocating defense in the final two minutes of the game, with the Cavaliers looking poised to be in their fourth straight contest decided by three points or fewer. Following a block by Key on Waardenburg, Virginia gained possession with 14 seconds left, holding the final possession of the game.
Miami freshman guard Harlond Beverly — who came in for the injured Lykes — pressed Clark as he dribbled up to midcourt, but as Clark tried to get by, Beverly fouled Clark — sending the 86.7 percent free throw shooter to the line. Clark stayed calm and collected, sinking both shots, and subsequently fouled on Miami’s offensive possession to stifle the Hurricanes’ attempt to press.
With four seconds left, Miami inbounded the ball and was able to get it to Vasiljevic, but the Melbourne, Australia native was unable to get his layup to fall, cementing a 46-44 win for Virginia.
Huff led the Cavaliers in scoring with 17 points on the evening — all from the first-half — tying a career-high. Diakite was also solid, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his third career double-double.
The Cavaliers end their regular season against No. 10 Louisville in John Paul Jones Arena Saturday afternoon. Tip-off against the Cardinals is set for 4 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN.