NCAA tournament-bound? Miami Hurricanes grab major win at No. 18 Virginia

Bruce Brown was gigantic in Miami's win at Virginia. (Getty Images)

Bruce Brown was gigantic in Miami’s win at Virginia. (Getty Images)

No starting point guard, a rotation of seven players, and a Boa constrictor defense coming at them.

A two-day turnaround on the road, a top-20 opponent and — let’s call it fair, here — a few questionable moments of officiating.

Miami got it done.

The Hurricanes earned a highly impressive road win on Monday, beating No. 18 Virginia 54-48 in overtime, a defensive struggle the nation watched on ESPN. UM (19-8, 9-6 ACC) moved up to sixth in the league standings, but more importantly, all but clinched an NCAA tournament berth.

Miami has developed nicely down the stretch, but hadn’t scored a road win of major importance — it was 3-4 on the road — and was 1-4 against the RPI top 25.

Now it will be impossible for the selection committee to ignore the Hurricanes, as young and inexperienced as they are.

“We made some key defensive stops. We made some key shots,” coach Jim Larranaga said on ESPN afterward. “We just told our players to play with confidence, to believe in themselves.”

Bruce Brown‘s 3-pointer with 26 seconds left in overtime put Miami ahead to stay, and one of several clutch plays for the freshman from Boston.

He sank a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left in regulation to put Miami ahead, and did so again midway through OT. He finished with a game-high 14 points and went 9-for-10 from the line — showing no fear, despite four turnovers.

Another newcomer, D.J. Vasiljevic, drilled a 3 with 1:02 left in regulation to tie a game the Cavaliers led for the previous 14 minutes. He scored 10.

Davon Reed and Anthony Lawrence shot a combined 2-for-14, but went 8-8 at the line. Lawrence added six boards and five assists and, like Reed (five turnovers, nine points, 1-for-7 from three), kept his head level amid some shaky moments.

Kamari Murphy, emerging as a post scorer at just the right time, had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Ebuka Izundu played well (six points on 3-for-5 shooting).

The Hurricanes shot 37 percent and 21 percent from the outside, compared with 31 and 25 for the Cavaliers. UM also survived 15 turnovers, but made 91 percent of its free throws while Virginia (65 percent) left points on the floor.

The defense may have dulled the proceedings, but they lent drama to every possession. The largest lead was Virginia by seven, with 12 minutes left in the game.

With four seconds left, Miami had the ball. Reed hit a would-be winner from 25 feet, but released the ball a hair late. To overtime they went, and the Hurricanes survived.

Now Miami, 3-0 without Ja’Quan Newton, gets its suspended point guard back for Saturday’s home game against No. 11 Duke (4 p.m., CBS). That will boost the rotation to eight, with center Rodney Miller certain to get a few minutes against a longer Duke team (Larranaga has said multiple times recently he wishes he was playing Miller more).

What will Monday’s win do for Miami’s confidence in this final stretch of 10th-ranked Duke (No. 11 in RPI), at Virginia Tech (No. 35), at 19th-ranked Florida State (No. 13)?

It won’t hurt it, that’s for sure.

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