WASHINGTON, D.C. — Never has MIA been a more fitting nickname for Miami.
The Miami Hurricanes entered Thursday night’s NCAA tournament East regional semifinal with Marquette as one of the nation’s top field-goal shooting teams and were ranked in the top-50 in effective field-goal percentage. But after 20 minutes of play, the No. 2-seed Hurricanes had just 16 points on 6-for-29 shooting, including a paltry 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. The second half wasn’t much better, and the end result was a disappointing 71-61 loss to Marquette at the Verizon Center.
Just three Hurricane players scored in double-figures. Shane Larkin finished with 14 points, Kenny Kadji added 11 points and Durand Scott chipped in with ten. But Kadji went 5-for-12 from the field and Scott finished 3-for-13.
Marquette made it a goal to force Larkin to rely on his teammates for offensive production, and while the Hurricanes got some open looks, very few of them fell in. “They did a great job in guarding the ball screen,” said sophomore guard Shane Larkin, who was just one of three Miami players to shoot at least 50% from the field. “They were pretty much trapping me and trying to get the ball out of my hands, and it was frustrating not being able to attack it because they were trying to get it out of my hands.”
While Marquette did have a great game plan, much of Miami’s struggles were self-inflicted.
“This is fact, it’s not fiction, it’s not an excuse. We didn’t prepare for this game,” said head coach Jim Larranaga following his team’s season-ending loss. “we didn’t practice on Monday. On Tuesday in the first rebounding drill we did, Durand Scott caught an elbow in the mouth. We didn’t have him, and then Raphael Akpejiori hurt his hand. We didn’t have him. We only have 11 scholarship guys eligible, we were down to 8 so practice wasn’t great without Durand, Reggie (Johnson), and last night Shane Larkin ended up throwing up all night, didn’t eat this morning, didn’t eat until the pregame meal at 3:00, so I think those guys didn’t have the juice that they normally do.”
Miami didn’t play terrible, but when an opponent is hitting shots and you aren’t, things don’t tend to work in your favor. “The game is very simple,” said Larranaga. “There are only two things you have to do in basketball one put the ball in the basket, two, stop the other team from putting the ball in the basket. We weren’t able to do either.”
Marquette finished 27-for-50 (54%) from the field, their best NCAA tournament shooting performance since the 2003 Elite Eight against Kentucky, in which they shot 56.4-percent from the field. But it also helped the Golden Eagles that Miami was missing their biggest space-eater, Reggie Johnson, who did not make the trip due to minor knee surgery.
“We definitely missed Reggie tonight,” said Larkin. “I think his size could have affected Otule and Gardner and they just played a great game. You can’t take anything away from them. There is no excuse on our end. Somebody had to step up and we as a team didn’t do that tonight.”
This was a Miami team that may predicted to win the East region and advance to the Final Four. You have to win fours game to make it to the Final Four, and usually, a team has to win one game in which they didn’t have their best performance but still found a way to win. For whatever reason, Miami could not find a way to win.
It also doesn’t help when you miss 41 shots. Miami took 63 shots on Thursday night and made just 22 of them.
Now that Fort Myers, Fla., is affectionately known as “Dunk City”, Coral Gables might have to stick with the trend and change their name to “Brick City’.
You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir.