How the ‘Canes have missed the Guillermo Diaz that dazzled the country last season.
While he's averaged 17 points per game this season, Diaz has not had the same resounding impact he had last season on almost a game-by-game basis.
The win ended Miami's four-game losing streak.
Up 55-51 with 7:48 to play, Diaz scored nine of Miami's final 15 points to spark a 12-3 run that gave the ‘Canes a commanding 67-54 lead in the final minute.
"Guillermo played like the Guillermo of last year," UM coach Frank Haith said. "You could see it in practice. He's really been coming along."
Add to that the play of Raymond Hicks who scored 11 points off the bench, grabbed three rebounds and had one block, the ‘Canes secured a win that kept its season alive.
In the history of the ACC, only one team that has won nine conference games has failed to make the NCAA Tournament. With two games remaining, one at Maryland and the finale at home against Florida State, Miami could win its final two, but both opponents will be fighting for the same thing Miami wants.
But what couldn't have come at a better time was a week to rest and relax because the ‘Canes are beaten and battered.
"We are tired," Haith said. "We didn't practice yesterday because the guys were dead. We had one day of practice and preparation for this game, but getting some time off should help us cause the guys are tired."
They didn't play that way though.
With Virginia Tech benching starting guards Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon, the ‘Canes only led 10-9 when they entered the game, but both were clearly a step slow early and Miami took immediate advantage of it.
Up 16-14, Miami went on a 15-2 run to push the lead to 31-16 with 5:34 to play in the first half. Diaz led the charge scoring 16 first half points on 5 of 6 shooting.
Gordon ended the run with a three-pointer from the wing, but Miami pushed the lead back to 15 when Anthony Harris hit a driving lay up to give the ‘Canes a 39-24 lead with 1:40 to play in the first half.
Dowdell missed three of four free throws, two 3-pointers, and another jumper before striking with a three-pointer with 1:13 to play in the first half cutting the lead to 12 going into the half. Gordon and Dowdell were a combined 3-for-10 in the first half.
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was not happy with the way his team played.
"We were embarrassing tonight. I can't imagine us playing any worse and any less inspired. It was the most embarrassing performance I've ever been associated with as a coach," Greenberg said. "Yet we were only down four points with seven minutes to go."
Tech jumped out on Miami in the second half going on a 9-0 run early in the second half to cut the lead to 41-36 with 17:31 to play. A.D. Vassallo spurred the run with a lay up and followed it with a three and followed a Dowdell lay up with a jumper from the wing.
The Hokies cut the lead to 47-45 following a four-point play by Dowdell, but the ‘Canes immediately struck back.
Miami responded with an 8-2 run, but it was the way Miami scored that knocked the wind out of Virginia Tech. Following two free throws by Diaz, Hicks hit a turnaround lay up and was fouled. He completed the three-point play to give Miami a seven-point cushion.
Dowdell blocked a Diaz attempt, but the loose ball ended up back in Robert Hite's hands with the shot clock winding down. He swung it out to Anthony Harris who banked a three home from way beyond the arc at the buzzer that broke the Hokies' heart giving Miami a 55-47 lead with 9:21 to play.
"That banker killed us," Greenberg said. "You could see it broke our spirit when that went through. We defended for 34 seconds and that went through. I am sure it looked pretty to (UM coach) Frank Haith."
Said Haith, "That was revenge for last year. Dowdell hit a couple like that against that were killers."
Miami is off until next Wednesday when it travels to College Park to face Maryland in another must win.
Miami (15-12, 7-7): Diaz 29, Hicks 11, King 10, Harris 10, Hite 8, Hamilton 2.
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