GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larrañaga breathed a sigh of relief, reiterating a popular saying this time of the year: “It’s about surviving and advancing.”
The Hurricanes did just that Thursday, barely.
Jordan Miller had 18 points and nine rebounds for No. 14 Miami, which held off a furious comeback by Wake Forest — down 18 points in the second half — to earn a 74-72 victory in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
ACC player of the year Isaiah Wong had 17 points and five assists and Norchad Omier had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Miami — the top seed for the first time since 2013 when the Hurricanes won the ACC title game.
Tyree Appleby had 24 points behind five 3s and Cameron Hildreth added 17 for ninth-seeded Wake Forest (19-17).
“We were up 18, then all of sudden it is seven, then it’s five, then two and all of a sudden they’re shooting a 3 for the win,” Larrañaga said. “But that 3 misses and we win the game and we get to advance. So we are happy with where we are.”
Daivien Williamson, whose buzzer-beater beat Syracuse and effectively ended coach Jim Boeheim’s 47-year coaching career on Wednesday, missed a half-court heave at the buzzer that would have won the game.
“Every time I shoot, I think it’s going in, but it just didn’t fall,” Williamson said.
The Hurricanes (25-6) move on to Friday’s semifinals, where they’ll face the winner of No. 21 Duke vs. Pittsburgh game that was slated for Thursday afternoon.
The Hurricanes broke open a five-point game at halftime behind Wong and Miller.
Miller buried a 3-pointer from the left wing off a Wong feed, and Wong followed with a turnaround jumper from the foul line to push the lead to 13. A few moments later, Wong increased the lead to 17 when he knocked down a step-back 3 from the top of the key after Wake Forest big man Andrew Carr got caught in a defensive switch.
But Wake Forest refused to quit, clawing back to within six with 3:17 remaining behind a 11-2 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Williamson, Bobi Klintman and Appleby.
Wake Forest made three 3-pointers in the final minute, trimming the lead to 74-72 with 3.3 seconds left when Hildreth connected from the wing.
Wooga Poplar was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Williamson’s heave from half court at the buzzer hit the backboard and bounced away.
“It would have been a hell of a story if he could have made it with back-to-back buzzer beaters for wins,” Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said.
Forbes’ team hurt itself shooting 7 of 14 from the foul line and fell to 6-7 in games decided by three points or less this season.
Wong was huge throughout the game, creating open shots for his teammates and scoring himself, like the floater with 49 seconds left that proved to be the winning basket.
“I feel like I have a lot of experience going into this tournament with this being my fourth time,” Wong said. “I feel like it helps the team more, just being composed and taking the pressure.”
Wake Forest: Came into the tournament having lost four of their five final regular-season games and couldn’t put together the run they needed in Greensboro despite a great comeback. “The next step is to finish in the top four in the league and play on Friday in the tournament and to win some games in the NCAA Tournament,” Forbes said. “We are definitely on the upswing with this program.”
Miami: The Hurricanes can beat a team in so many ways and proved that against Wake Forest. Wong was surgical in setting up teammates for quality shots when he wasn’t scoring nearly at will. Miami has to do a better job of making clutch free throws down the stretch to close out games.
Wake Forest: Await a likely NIT bid.
Miami: Will play Friday in the ACC semifinals.