BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — When asked how important his team’s latest victory was as far as building an NCAA Tournament resume, Miami coach Jim Larranaga refrained from typical coach-speak, especially that of the variety that one typically hears at this time of year.
“They’re all worth one,” he said.
Miami added the latest one to its win total Saturday, getting a monster game from junior guard Anthony Lawrence II, who scored a career-high 25 points to help the Hurricanes secure an 84-75 road victory over Virginia Tech.
Lawrence hit 9 of 10 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, as Miami (17-5, 6-4 ACC) made the big shots down the stretch and used solid free-throw shooting to win its second straight game and fourth in its past five. Lonnie Walker IV and DJ Vasiljevic added 14 points each.
Behind torrid first-half shooting — 58.6 percent (17 of 29) — Miami grabbed the early lead and led for the final 37 minutes. Virginia Tech (16-7, 5-5) used an 8-0 run to slice the lead to 66-63 on a layup by Justin Robinson with 3:51 remaining, but the Walker hit a clutch 3-pointer with 3:22 to go to push the lead to 69-63.
Robinson scored on another layup with 3:03 to go to trim the lead to 69-65, but Walker answered again. His tough turnaround jumper with 2:46 left pushed the lead to six, and Virginia Tech got no closer than four the rest of the way.
“He only had four or six points until there was about three minutes left in the game,” Larranaga said of Walker. “Then he took over. He ended very strong.”
The ‘Canes relied on something down the stretch that isn’t their strength to hold off the Hokies — free-throw shooting. The ACC’s worst free-throw shooting team coming into the game made 9 of 12 in the final 1:16. They hit 16 of 23 (69.6 percent).
Lawrence finished with his second straight double, grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds as well on a day in which Miami outrebounded Virginia Tech 41-28.
“I don’t think, collectively, we played hard enough,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “We don’t have a margin to overcome lack of toughness, lack of playing hard.”
Robinson led the Hokies with 22 points. Justin Bibbs had 16.
Miami: Despite the loss of Bruce Brown Jr. (11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg), who underwent surgery Thursday for a left foot injury that will keep him out six weeks, the ‘Canes quietly continue to put together a strong resume for NCAA Tournament consideration. They won their sixth true road game of the season, and if they get Brown back, they could be a tough out if they get in the tournament.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies had won three straight games to play their way into the NCAA Tournament discussion, but missed on an opportunity for a stronger case. Virginia Tech now has lost three conference games at home and faces a brutal schedule down the stretch that includes two games against Duke and games against Louisville and Virginia, as well as a rematch against Miami in Coral Gables.
DOWN — BUT CERTAINLY NOT OUT
Lawrence, whose previous career high of 19 came on Jan. 18 against Florida State, scored 15 of his points in the first half when Miami jumped out to a 16-point lead, but he wasn’t feeling 100 percent. He spent most of halftime trying to throw up, and yet he came out in the second half, made all three of his field-goal attempts, and scored 10 more.
“I don’t know if he ever did (throw up),” Larranaga said. “We didn’t start him in the second half because of that. I guess we’re going to have to try and get him sick the next time out, too.”
SEARCHING FOR EFFORT
Williams wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s effort in the nine-point loss to the ‘Canes, especially that of a couple of upperclassmen. Ahmed Hill went scoreless for the first time this season, and Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored just two points after having scored in double figures in seven of the previous eight games. Williams compared the loss to the home loss against Florida State on Jan. 20 when the Seminoles shot 53.4 percent. Miami shot 50.9 percent Saturday in snapping the Hokies’ three-game winning streak.
“We didn’t handle our success very well, obviously, so I think maybe we know how to handle failure. We’ll see,” Williams said. “We’ve proven that we know how to handle failure, but we haven’t proven that we know how to handle success. That’s what hurts. That’s what’s disappointing. We’ve lost three games at home. We’ve won three games on the road, which is more than we’ve ever won, so it’s not as if it’s not available.”
Miami: The ‘Canes return home for a Wednesday game against Wake Forest.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies play NC State in Blacksburg on Wednesday.
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