No. 25 Miami enters Tuesday’s Atlantic Coast Conference contest against No. 2 Virginia with a score to settle. The Hurricanes have lost six straight times to the Cavaliers.
But if there’s a good time for Miami to catch Virginia, this is it. While the Hurricanes (11-1, 2-0 ACC) have won seven straight, the visiting Cavaliers (8-1, 1-0) are coming off their lone loss, 69-61 to No. 5 Houston.
In addition, while Miami’s best player, Isaiah Wong, is in perhaps the finest form of his career, Virginia’s top dog, Reece Beekman, is struggling with a sore hamstring.
Case in point: On Saturday, Wong filled the stat sheet with 22 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks in a 91-76 victory over Saint Francis (Pa.).
Later in the afternoon, Beekman made one of five shots and scored four points in the loss to Houston.
Beekman’s injury concerns began when he rolled an ankle on his way to scoring 18 points in a 70-68 win at Michigan. Four days later, Beekman made 1 of 7 shots as Virginia got past Florida State, 62-57, in its ACC opener.
Then, four minutes into a 55-50 win over James Madison, Beekman clutched his hamstring after making a steal and scoring on a breakaway layup.
Beekman didn’t return and had 11 days to recover before facing Houston. But the junior guard had little impact against the Cougars, offsetting five assists with three turnovers and four fouls.
“He didn’t quite have his burst,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “He was pretty good defensively, not quite as explosive offensively and probably a little fatigued because he hasn’t done much.”
Carrying the load against Houston were Kadin Shedrick, who scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, Jayden Gardner (13 points, six rebounds) and Kihei Clark (nine points, eight assists).
During its seven-game streak, Miami is averaging 81.6 points per game. The Hurricanes rank No. 8 in the NCAA in offensive efficiency, averaging 1.13 points per possession.
Wong has been the catalyst. In a 107-105 win earlier this month over Cornell, Wong scored a career-high 36 points. He followed that up with 22 points and eight assists in an ACC victory over North Carolina State.
On Saturday, Wong shifted to the point in the absence of Nijel Pack (illness) and turned in his career high in assists.
“He keeps getting better and better,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “We moved him to the point because he’s great at finding the open man and great at making the open shot.”
Wooga Poplar notched his career high with 20 points on Saturday. In his first career start, Bensley Joseph scored 14 points, while Arizona State transfer Norchad Omier added 14 points for the Hurricanes.
Solving the defense of Virginia has been problematic for Miami. During the six-game skid in the series, the Cavaliers have held the Hurricanes to an average of 53.3 points per game.
“The big guys do their job. They know their role,” Larranaga said. “And the guards are terrific at defending, sharing the ball, making shots. That’s why they’ve been so good since I’ve been in the ACC.”
–Field Level Media