Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Canes Overcome Sloppy First Half, Absence of Newton in 65-49 Win Over Virginia Tech

Feb 17, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Sheldon McClellan (left) celebrates with Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (right) during the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 17, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Sheldon McClellan (left) celebrates with Miami Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (right) during the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies at BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Whether it was the absence of Ja’Quan Newton, the poor shooting from every player or Sheldon Mcclellan’s early exit with two fouls, nothing could go right for the Miami Hurricanes in the first half against Virginia Tech. The second half though once again was a completely different story.

Shooting 68 percent in the second half, the Canes blitzed Virginia Tech after the break and easily cruised to a 65-49 victory. The win was their fifth straight and after North Carolina’s loss against Duke, it setup a colossal clash on Saturday in Chapel Hill when the Hurricanes will take on the Tar Heels for first place in the ACC.

Before that big matchup with North Carolina, the Hurricanes had to make sure they didn’t overlook the 13-12 Virginia Tech Hokies, but in the first half they didn’t accomplish that very well. Shooting 7-of-23 (30.4%) from the field with seven turnovers, the Canes looked completely out of sync as Ja’Quan Newton missed the game due to a medical condition and Sheldon McClellan was forced to play just eight minutes in the first half after two early fouls.

Despite the horrendous and sloppy play, Miami amazingly trailed by just 22-21 at the half and looked poised despite their dismal start to dominate as they often do in the second half.

On cue, the Canes immediately jumped all over the Hokies with smart shot selections as they went on a 25-11 run to begin the half, leaving the hapless Hokies in the dust.

“It was a weird game,” Davon Reed said afterwards. “Virginia Tech and Buzz Williams just play with a different style that’s real scrappy and it was just tough to get into the flow of the offense in the first half. In the second half,the defense led the way and was pretty awesome for us.”

With Newton out and McClellan being held to a limited amount of minutes, the Hurricanes had a plethora of players step up to fill the voids. Angel Rodriguez delivered a brilliant performance leading all scorers with 14 points while Davon Reed, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri all finished in double figures as well. It was the type of performance you see from a Top 15 team that isn’t at its best, but can blowout teams with less talent anyhow.

In the end, the 49 points Miami allowed was tied for a season-best and they easily grabbed the 65-49 victory, improving to 21-4 overall and 10-3 in the ACC.

“I’m very, very pleased with the win, especially considering that we didn’t execute the plan for the first half that we had in mind,” Coach Jim Larranaga said after the game. “We said at halftime we needed to get to the foul-line and get the ball inside and in the second half we immediately did and got a lead that we never relinquished.”

The win was certainly appreciated after the game, but much of the focus was on the return of Ja’Quan Newton before Saturday’s matchup at North Carolina. While Larranaga wouldn’t offer much on the subject, Kamari Murphy did say that, “Newton will be back with us shortly.” We’ll find out if Murphy’s diagnosis is correct as the media will meet with Larranaga tomorrow, but there’s no doubt the Canes would love to have him back as soon as possible.

Tonight, Rodriguez played 39 minutes and with two games in three days against North Carolina and Virginia, that’s going to be impossible to replicate. If Newton is out, a lot of the responsibility will fall to James Palmer to try and replace Newton’s production. No one will expect Palmer to average double-digits in scoring, but the sophomore did look aggressive and confident against Virginia Tech and just needs to finish on the inside more often to become a consistent threat.

The whole team’s performance in tonight’s first half couldn’t have gotten much worse, but almost like a broken record, the Miami Hurricanes were just too dominant in the second half.