CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Chris Lykes’ clutch free throw Saturday gave the Miami Hurricanes their most thrilling win in five days.
The freshman guard broke a tie by sinking the front end of a one-and-one with three seconds left to beat Virginia Tech 69-68. It was the Hurricanes’ biggest heart-stopper since Tuesday, when they won at No. 9 North Carolina on Ja’Quan Newton’s desperation buzzer-beater.
Miami has won four games in a row by a total of eight points, with each victory decided on the final possession. Jim Larranaga, who has been in coaching 46 years, said he has never experienced anything like it.
“They’re like the cardiac kids,” Larranaga said. “They somehow are enjoying being on the edge at the end of these games.”
Miami (22-8, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) takes plenty of momentum into the league tournament next week.
“It’s finally starting to click,” freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV said. “We clicked at the right time — going into the tournament.”
Virginia Tech (21-10, 10-8) finished with the same league record for the third consecutive year. This season’s record includes victories over three Top 10 teams, but two losses to Miami.
The Hurricanes overcame a 12-point first-half deficit and regrouped after going more than seven minutes without a basket down the stretch to squander a nine-point lead. Walker ended the drought by sinking a game-tying basket with 55 seconds left.
After Tech missed two shots, Lykes drove and drew a foul from Mike Robinson. What was Lykes thinking as he stepped to the line?
“I really wasn’t trying to think about anything,” Lykes said. “That’s how you miss.”
He made one of two free throws. When asked about Lykes’ drive, Hokies coach Buzz Williams made it clear he was unhappy a foul was called.
“The ACC assigns those officials, and supposedly you get fined if you’re negative about them, so I’m not going to say anything,” Williams said. “But I appreciate you trying to set me up.”
A shot by Tech’s Chris Clarke from midcourt missed badly at the buzzer.
Dejan Vasiljevic led Miami with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and engaged in some jawing with the Hokies bench.
“Virginia Tech liked to talk a little trash,” Vasiljevic said. “We won, so no more talking trash.”
Lykes had 15 points and seven assists, and Walker added 12 points. Robinson led Tech with 18 points and six assists, but also had six turnovers.
The Hurricanes struggled early against the zone, as they have for much of the season. But they hit three consecutive 3-pointers to start the second half, and scored 12 points in a row for a 47-42 lead.
“How they started in the second half was the difference in the game,” Williams said. “It was too much in the end for us to absorb.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Vasiljevic put the Hurricanes ahead 64-55, but they didn’t sink another basket until the final minute. Even so, they shot 59 percent in the second half and 48 percent for the game.
Miami improved to 7-3 without star guard Bruce Brown Jr., who will be sidelined for at least another week with a foot injury.
Tech fell to 2-8 against Miami under Williams.
For the Hurricanes’ home finale, seniors Chris Stowell and Mike Robinson made their first career starts. Stowell left after sinking one of two free throws for a 1-0 lead.
“Considering we won by one, you have to say Chris Stowell won the game,” Larranaga said with a grin.
Newton, the lone scholarship senior, had two points and five turnovers in his final home game.
Both teams play in the ACC Tournament next week in New York.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good position for the tournament,” Larranaga said.