Miami-Virginia Tech Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Surging up the AP poll while in the midst of the school's best conference start, Miami is poised to remain focused for a pair of challenging ACC road games this week.
The No. 14 Hurricanes look for an eighth consecutive victory while trying to end their recent road struggles against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
Miami (15-3, 6-0) entered the poll for the first time in three years at No. 25 on Jan. 21, then took a huge leap with a 90-63 home win over previously top-ranked Duke and a 71-47 rout of rival Florida State. The Hurricanes' 11-spot jump in the rankings is tied for the second-largest climb since the poll expanded to 25 teams in 1989-90.
"Our players have worked very hard to achieve certain goals and being ranked was one of them," coach Jim Larranaga said. "However, it is still very early in the conference race with 12 games still remaining. Our goal is really to be at our best at the end of February and throughout March."
It's tough to believe Larranaga's team can play much better considering it's allowed an average of 54.0 points and a conference-low 34.3 percent shooting while winning its ACC games by an average of 13.5 points. After holding the Blue Devils to 29.7 percent from the field, the Hurricanes kept the Seminoles to a season-low 30.8.
"We feel good, man," center Reggie Johnson said. "The team is playing at a high level right now. We've got to enjoy this, but we've got to stay focused."
That's imperative with road games at Virginia Tech and No. 19 North Carolina State this week. Looking to win seven straight on the road for the first time since a stretch that spanned the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 seasons, Miami has won three of four overall against the Hokies (11-8, 2-4).
However, its only loss during that span came in January 2011 by four points at Virginia Tech, where it's lost four of five.
Johnson scored 15, Shane Larkin had 14 and Kenny Kadji added 11 points when the Hurricanes held the Hokies to 35.2 percent shooting en route to a 65-49 home win in the teams' only meeting last season.
The 6-foot-10 Johnson (10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds per game) has totaled seven points in the last two games while easing his way back after missing more than a month with a thumb injury. His inside presence provides reinforcement for Miami, which ranks second in the ACC with a plus-4.5 rebound differential during league play.
Johnson and the Hurricanes hope to continue their success on the glass against a Virgina Tech squad that was outrebounded 42-33 in a 77-70 loss at Clemson on Sunday. The Hokies shot a season-low 35.0 percent while allowing Clemson to go 10 of 21 from 3-point range.
Virginia Tech has dropped two straight and eight of 12 since improving to 7-0 with an 81-71 home win over then-No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1.
"We've just got to keep getting better," guard Erick Green, the nation's leading scorer at 25.2 points per game, told the school's official website. "Day by day. Just keep working."
Green is shooting 49.5 percent this season but has gone 12 of 29 from the field while totaling 32 points in the last two meetings with Miami.
Updated January 29, 2013