CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Reece Beekman lost his dribble driving for a potential game-tying layup in the final seconds, and No. 6 Virginia’s furious comeback bid fell one basket short, as No. 22 Miami held on for a 66-64 win Tuesday night in South Florida.
"[Coach] said, 'Just go make a play,'" said Beekman. "It just didn't turn out how we really wanted it. It's kind of poor execution on my part."
Senior forward Ben Vander Plas had a huge bounce-back game, rebounding from his 0-for-7 showing in the Houston loss to score 20 points.
"I thought we did a really, really good job, kind of fighting, clawing back into it," said Vander Plas.
Beekman, playing his second game since straining his hamstring against James Madison on Dec. 6, narrowly missed a triple-double, scoring 10 points to go with nine rebounds and nine assists.
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But trailing by two points, Beekman took an inbounds pass from senior guard Kihei Clark, dribbled up the right side and then drove toward the lane. But he lost the ball off his leg on his way and time expired.
"It's something that I've seen Reece do a ton of times, him getting that open-side drive," said Vander Plas. "This one didn't work out the way we wanted it. I know he's going to learn from it but I'd give him the ball in that spot a hundred times out of a hundred and trust that he's going to get something up for us."
Clark scored 13 points including hitting three free throws with 4.6 seconds to play to cut Miami’s lead to 65-64.
Miami, which led 36-26 at halftime, went 8 for 9 at the free throw line in the final 2:54 of the game, including 5 for 6 in the last 23 seconds, to hold off the hard-charging Cavaliers.
Guard Isaiah Wong scored 24 points to lead the Hurricanes to their first win over UVa in their last seven tries.
When asked about Miami leading the ACC in assists, and if sharing the ball was something coach Jim Larranaga emphasized in practice, Hurricanes senior guard Jordan Miller laughed this week.
“I’m going to be honest with you guys,” said Miller, a Middleburg native, on Monday. “All of our practices basically have been focused on defense. We tackle offense very little.”
That work paid off Tuesday night, as Miami absolutely stifled Virginia for much of the game, holding the Cavaliers to 37% shooting from the floor, their second worst showing of the season.
After a dismal start, UVa got hot down the stretch. It hit 10 of its final 18 shots including its last five.
“I thought the guys did execute well down the stretch offensively to put us in those spots and scrapped defensively to get back," said coach Tony Bennett. "We just dug too deep of a hole to start the game and to start the second half.”
It outscored Miami 13-5 over the final 1:02 of play to set up the dramatic finish.
That came after the Cavaliers struggled mightily offensively over the first 30 minutes of play, including a brutal first half that saw them shoot 22% (10 for 29) from the floor.
The Cavaliers had hit just 18% of their 3-point attempts the past three games, and things did not get better in the first half Tuesday, as they went 2 for 9.
Virginia trailed by 10 points at the half and things did not immediately improve after the break.
What kind of a night was it for UVa? The Cavaliers hadn’t scored yet in the second half when Jayden Gardner went to the line with 17:37 to play. He missed both free throws, but a lane violation by Jordan Miller gave him a chance to reshoot the second.
Gardner clanged it off the front of the rim.
In all, Virginia didn’t score a point in the second half until Vander Plas hit one of two free throws 5:16 into the period. It went the first 6:30 of the second half without a field goal.
Virginia, after starting 8-0, has now lost back-to-back games. It has two final games this calendar year, hosting Albany in a non-conference game and playing at Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve day.