Sims: Takeaways from consecutive ACC losses to FSU and Syracuse

Junior guard Bensley Joseph comes up against FSU’s defense in the second half of Miami’s game against FSU at the Watsco Center on Jan. 17, 2024. Photo credit: Alexandra Fisher

Miami played two games in the past week against rival Florida State, a game in which they were favored, and against Syracuse, a game in which the ‘Canes were underdogs. Instead, the ‘Canes played like the underdog at home against Florida State and like the favored team on the road against the Orange. Both games resulted in losses.

The same issues that have been haunting Miami all year persisted through these games. While Miami brought a much better effort to Syracuse, New York, it failed to put away a game where they led for 92% more of the game than its opponent. Here are some takeaways from a disappointing week of Miami basketball.

Miami’s offense has stagnated since putting up 95 points against Clemson. This team seems to be settling for poor shots and not using the shot clock as efficiently as it did earlier in the year.

The offense excels when it is in transition and can catch the defense off balance. It does not function as well when it’s forced to set up. Miami has often been bailed out by elite shooting this season. When the isolated and contested looks are not working out for the ‘Canes, they tend to struggle.

Miami needs to work on being better with its screens and movement rather than settling for bad shots and isolated looks. That worked earlier in the year against weaker competition, but against these longer and faster ACC teams, Miami needs to come up with a solution quickly.

Outside of Nijel Pack, the consistent play from the Hurricanes’ studs has not been there. With Omier out against Syracuse, Pack stepped up to drop 19 points and led the ‘Canes in scoring once again.

Against FSU, Matthew Cleveland scored only two points, two rebounds and two assists. All of the other starters were in double figures, and if Cleveland was even able to have an average day, the ‘Canes may have won that game. Then, in the next game against Syracuse, he had a double-double and looked like a different player. Miami needs to see consistent performances from Cleveland because he could make a difference.

There was a stretch near the end of the Syracuse game where Miami needed to score to tie or take the lead back. On three straight possessions, George had the ball in his hands and scored. The first two were drives to the right side of the hoop, where George took a defender one-on-one and skillfully laid the ball in the hoop off the glass.

In the last of these three possessions, Miami was down three and needed a score to stay in the game. George took the ball up the floor in front of a hostile Syracuse crowd and knocked in a deep three-pointer off the backboard to even the game. The freshman finished with 10 points in 18 minutes because of early foul trouble.

This is tremendous progress from a player who struggled to adjust to the speed of college basketball when first suiting up for Miami. Now, he seems primed and ready to take off and become another go-to player for the ‘Canes.

Miami will now travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This is a huge game for Miami, as it’s looking to snap a two-game losing streak. This ACC clash tips off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.



Gideon Canice

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