ACC Basketball: Miami 79, Wake Forest 52
Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2009
By Steven Wine
CORAL GABLES, Fla. ó The crowd for the attendance-challenged Miami Hurricanes totaled 5,792 fans, and many of them poured onto the court when Wednesday night’s game ended to celebrate their team’s most lopsided win ever against a ranked opponent.
Jack McClinton scored a season-high 32 points, and Miami used a zone defense to stymie No. 7 Wake Forest, which lost its second consecutive game, 79-52.
The Hurricanes hardly looked like a team that had lost three straight games. And Wake Forest looked nothing like the team that beat then-No. 1-ranked Duke a week earlier.
“Miami played very, very well,” Demon Deacons coach Dino Gaudio said. “They had their backs to the wall and played with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion.”
The upset triggered a frenzied celebration as fans mobbed the Hurricanes.
“That was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had,” McClinton said. “I’ve never experienced something like that, rushing the court. It was great.”
McClinton scored 14 consecutive points for the Hurricanes late in the game to help build their biggest margin of victory ever against a ranked team. He finished 11-for-19, including 6-for-10 from 3-point range, and added three steals and two assists.
“McClinton had one of the best performances I’ve seen in the eight years I’ve been in the ACC,” Gaudio said.
The victory snapped a slump for the Hurricanes (15-7, 4-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) at the start of a three-game stretch against top 10 teams. They visit No. 4 Duke on Saturday and will be at home against No. 3 North Carolina on Feb. 15.
“They fought extremely hard because they’re fighting for their lives,” Wake Forest center Chas McFarland said. “We’ve got to be doing the same thing.”
The Demon Deacons (17-3, 4-3) haven’t won since beating Duke a week ago. They lost in the final second Saturday at Georgia Tech, which came into the game winless in the league.
Against Miami’s zone, the Demon Deacons struggled throughout and shot a season-low 31.7 percent, including 3-for-20 from 3-point range. Their 52 points were a season low.
“We were relying way too much on the 3-point shot,” Gaudio said. “We weren’t going inside enough. We tried to shoot our way out of problems.”
Miami often had the Demon Deacons on their heels ó or worse. Hurricanes forward Cyrus McGowan set a midcourt screen that sent L.D. Williams sprawling as McClinton sped past for a layup.
The crowd erupted, and a woozy Williams went to the bench.
“That play Cyrus made really got us going,” McClinton said. “Our team got pumped up.”
Miami went on to lead 29-26 at halftime, then pulled away by outscoring Wake Forest 25-8 over the first 9:10 of the second half. Junior Adrian Thomas complemented McClinton by going 4-for-5 beyond the arc and tying a career high with 14 points.
“In practice that’s what I do ó I keep shooting,” Thomas said. “It felt good.”
Miami point guard Lance Hurdle missed his first five shots but finished with 11 points, four assists and only two turnovers.
Jeff Teague scored 19 points for Wake Forest but missed all five of his 3-point tries. Freshman Al-Farouq Aminu had five turnovers and scored only four points, nine below his average.
The Demon Deacons came into the game shooting 50 percent this season, but they struggled from the start to find the range against Miami. The lead changed seven times in the half before DeQuan Jones scored on a breakaway dunk to give Miami a 29-26 halftime lead.
The Hurricanes, hoping to mount a February surge for the second year in a row, missed only one shot during a stretch when they outscored Wake Forest 16-6 to go ahead 45-32. Wake Forest gave up 50 points in the second half.
“I told our kids, if we never scored a point tonight, we should be able to guard on the other end of the floor,” Gaudio said. “Our offense affected our defense. That should never happen.”