Virginia Tech-Miami Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- No longer undefeated in the ACC, Miami still leads the league but can't look past a potentially favorable matchup in its next contest to a weekend date with its closest pursuer.
The fifth-ranked Hurricanes hope to bounce back from their first defeat in almost two months and continue their recent success against visiting last-place Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
Riding a 14-game winning streak and sporting its highest-ever ranking, then-No. 2 Miami (22-4, 13-1) shot 39.1 percent and never found a rhythm during Saturday's 80-65 road loss to a sub-.500 Wake Forest team. The Demon Deacons shot 54.2 percent - the highest versus Miami this season - and led by double digits the entire second half.
"Overall, we weren't prepared before the game and they came out and punched us in the mouth," guard Shane Larkin said.
"You want to go undefeated, you want to win every game, but you're still in first place. (The loss is) in the past and we're just going to let it stay in the past."
The Hurricanes hold a two-game lead over third-ranked Duke with four remaining. Miami will try for a third straight win over the Blue Devils on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but first must rebound against Virginia Tech (12-15, 3-11).
"I think you learn from every game," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Some good things and some bad things, whether you win or lose. After a loss we will see how this team responds. We need to be together and we weren't very together (Saturday). We need to execute better and we are going to need to play a lot harder than we did.
"The first thing is we've got to get ready for Virginia Tech. That's our focus right now."
While the Hurricanes should be motivated, they hope they're not losing steam. Miami's last three wins were decided by six or fewer points and it has failed to score 70 in its last three overall after topping that mark in each of the previous seven.
Miami has won two straight and four of five against the Hokies, who led by 12 before the Hurricanes went on a 22-6 run spanning halftime in a 73-64 victory Jan. 30. Larkin scored 25 and hit a season-high five 3-pointers in his matchup with Virginia Tech star guard Erick Green.
The top scorer in the nation with 25.2 points a contest, Green scored 30 and also made five 3-pointers.
"These are the (most fun) games, playing against the best players in the nation." Larkin said after that meeting. "Erick Green is definitely one of those guys.
"I love playing against the best players and when they're doing good, I want to do just as well as them."
Green scored 26 and added five assists to help Virginia Tech snap a nine-game slide with an 80-70 win over Florida State on Sunday.
Miami has won nine straight ACC home games and Virginia Tech is on a four-game league road skid.
Larkin, Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson combined for 40 points in a 65-49 home win over Virginia Tech last Feb. 9.
Updated February 26, 2013