RALEIGH – Coach Jim Larranaga wanted Miami to keep taking the ball to the rim. The Hurricanes did, and it led to their best offensive day of the season.
Rion Brown scored 20 points and Miami pulled away to beat N.C. State, 85-70, on Saturday.
Garrius Adams added 16 points, and Brown, the native of nearby Apex, hit two big shots down the stretch for Miami.
“Those two big plays just came from coach telling us to keep attacking the rim,” Adams said. “Just doing that, just keeping that up, we ended up finishing the game pretty well.”
The ACC’s worst shooting team shot a season-best 58.7 percent for the game, set a season high for scoring, hit 68 percent of its shots in the second half and outscored N.C. State, 36-28, in the paint.
Manu Lecomte and Erik Swoope had 15 points apiece for Miami (15-14, 6-10 Atlantic Coast Conference), which reeled off 13 straight points after falling behind for the only time in the final 20 minutes and went on to win its third in four games.
Miami managed 12 field goals in its last game – a 25-point loss at No. 12 Virginia that marked its most lopsided defeat since 2007 – but had at least that many in each half of this one.
ACC scoring leader T.J. Warren had 20 points for the Wolfpack (17-12, 7-9), which led for only about 30 seconds in the second half.
Warren’s dunk off a steal by Desmond Lee with about 6 ½ minutes remaining put N.C. State up, 65-64.
Tonye Jekiri followed two possessions later with two free throws that put the Hurricanes back on top to stay. Adams banked in a jumper, Jekiri followed Brown’s missed three-pointer with a dunk, and Adams converted a key three-point play.
Brown then buried a dagger of a jumper with the shot clock winding down before Swoope’s two free throws ended the run and made it 77-65 with 2:15 to play.
“You’re climbing a mountain. We climbed back. We got over the hump, ... and then, I thought they made a run and they kind of negated our run, and then we just didn’t respond,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We just seemed to lose our drive at that point. We climbed the mountain, they took it back over and sometimes it’s hard to climb it twice.”
Jekiri added 14 points and 13 rebounds for Miami, which put up its first 80-point game since November and had five double-figure scorers for the first time since a Nov. 14 win against Texas Southern.
Kyle Washington had 13 points and Lee finished with 10 for N.C. State, which was playing three days after a tough-to-handle, one-point loss to rival North Carolina in overtime and at times appeared emotionally spent.
“I thought we were very heavy-legged (Saturday),” Gottfried said. “That can’t happen.
“That just can’t happen.”
The Wolfpack went 5½ minutes down the stretch without a field goal while Miami pulled away.
N.C. State scored 14 points off 11 Miami turnovers, and Warren scored eight of those points during a binge of four steal-and-scores during the five-minute span in which the Wolfpack made its late charge back from a nine-point deficit.
“What led to their scoring was not our bad defense,” Larranaga said, “but our bad offense.”
These two played a tight game three weeks earlier in Miami, with neither team leading by double figures in N.C. State’s 57-56 win on Feb. 8.
For a while, anyway, this one was just as tight.
Then, the Hurricanes, who average less than 60 points per game in league play, opened up a nine-point lead early in the second half after scoring on 10 of their first 12 possessions.
Swoope’s authoritative down-the-lane dunk with the shot clock about to expire gave Miami its largest lead at 53-44 with 13½ minutes remaining in the game.
But it temporarily tightened right back up once Warren, who missed seven of his first 10 attempts through constant pressure from the defense-minded Hurricanes, finally started scoring with his run of steals and easy buckets.
“The expectation now is for him to be almost Superman,” Gottfried said. “I thought he tried there to do everything he could to help us.”