The Miami Hurricanes have lost three Atlantic Coast Conference games in a row but considering that the three losses were by a total of five points, they realize that this is not a time to panic. They just need to finish better.
Saturday, the hard-luck Hurricanes (4-5, 0-4 ACC) visit the North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-2, 2-1) in an ACC game at Raleigh, N.C., looking to make the late shot they need to provide the difference.
Miami’s skid includes two losses to ranked teams — Virginia Tech and Clemson — who this week are tied for 19th in the AP poll. The other was a 1-point loss to six-time national champion North Carolina.
The last two losses — to Clemson and UNC — would have been victories had shots by Miami’s Isaiah Wong gone in instead of bouncing off the rim.
For what it’s worth, the only other ACC team to lose three straight games similar to Miami was Georgia Tech in 1989-90, and the Yellow Jackets reached the Final Four that season.
While not mentioning the Final Four, Miami associate head coach Chris Caputo says the Hurricanes can turn things around.
“We have a very resilient group, especially with so many younger players,” Caputo said. “They know we’re playing incredibly short-handed. I think we have a belief that we will be a very competitive team in our league.”
Caputo’s “short-handed” comment referred to the fact that five players — Chris Lykes, Kameron McGusty, Earl Timberlake, Sam Waardenburg and Rodney Miller — have been available from start to finish in just four games.
Timberlake is back, but Waardenburg and Miller are out for the season. Lykes and McGusty both made the trip to Raleigh, and their return would give Miami a huge backcourt boost.
Lykes, Miami’s leading scorer last year at 15.4, played only two games this season before sustaining a seriously sprained ankle. He has yet to play a single game alongside the freshman Timberlake, who has impressed with his passing vision and his physicality over the past four games.
McGusty has missed four of Miami’s past five games due to a hamstring injury.
NC State has won the past three meetings with the Hurricanes, including sweeping the two games last season.
However, the Wolfpack are coming off a 74-70 overtime loss to Clemson on Tuesday, when NC State blew a nine-point, second-half lead in that game.
“I thought we fell apart in the end,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said after his team’s three-game win streak was snapped.
The Wolfpack, 5-0 at home this season, will look to bounce back behind Devon Daniels, who leads the team with a 16.5-point average, and the resurgent D.J. Funderburk.
Funderburk is back with a vengeance after missing most of a month due to COVID-19 protocols. He went 27 days between games, but in his two games back he is averaging 20.5 points.
In addition, NC State 6-foot-11 sophomore Manny Bates leads the league in blocks (3.1). Bates had 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting and had seven rebounds and four blocks the last time NC State played Miami, Feb. 5, 2020.
As a team, the Wolfpack ranks first in the ACC in scoring margin (13.8) and turnover margin (6.9), and second in steals (10.3) and field-goal percentage (48.5).
“They have one of the better pressure defenses in the country,” Caputo said of NC State. “They force turnovers and put you in tough positions.
“Offensively, they are lethal in transition. They will present a lot of difficulties, especially on their home court.”
–Field Level Media