CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Shane Larkin has noticed teams keying in on him in recent games and noticed it again Tuesday against Virginia.
Larkin was held in check for most of the game, but came up with a key assist to Reggie Johnson, who made a go-ahead lay-up with 5.7 seconds left to help lead the second-ranked Miami Hurricanes to a 54-50 win over Virginia in front of a sellout crowd.
"Playing with a guy like Shane he makes the game easy because defenses zone in on him," Johnson said.
Miami (22-3, 13-0) remained unbeaten in conference play and tied a school record with their 14th consecutive win. Following Johnson’s lay-up that broke a 50-all tie. Durand Scott stole the ensuing inbounds pass and was fouled. Scott knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
"Durand Scott's steal and then making the two free throws eliminated the possiblity of them hitting a 3 for the game-winner," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said.
Virginia (18-8, 8-5) tied the game on a 3-pointer by Evan Nolte with 14.3 seconds left.
Following Nolte's 3 Shane Larkin, who led the Hurricanes with 11 points, brought the ball up court and was trapped after two high pick-and-rolls with Johnson and Kenny Kadji at the top of the key. Larkin bounced away from the defense on the second screen and was standing near his own bench when he fired a pass to a wide open Johnson down low for the bucket.
"They were so worried about Kenny at the top of the key that a little ball fake to him drew the defense and Reggie was just sitting there wide open," Larkin said. "When I threw it, I knew Reggie was going to finish."
Larkin scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and dished out six assists. He was relatively quiet scoring just six points in the first 32 minutes before leading the team down the stretch.
"Their defense was very similar to Clemson's," Larkin said. "They were hedging really hard on the ball screen and not leaving me until I gave up the ball. My teammates did a great job tonight of setting screens. I had several opportunities, I just missed the shot."
Larkin has been receiving the most individual praise for Miami's success this season and Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who played three seasons in the NBA, has been impressed with Larkin's play.
"I love him," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "He's got the whole package. Eleven points, six assists, one turnover and that sixth assist was obviously a good one."
The end capped a frantic final minute of play as Joe Harris tied the game at 46 with a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left.
Larkin responded by giving Miami a 48-46 lead with a layup and Harris followed by splitting a pair of free throws with 32.8 seconds left.
Larkin was fouled immediately and sank both free throws to lead 50-47 before Jesperson’s 3 to set the stage for Johnson’s bucket.
"You've got to be very sound to beat them and we almost were," Bennett said. "We were just a few possessions away."
It was the third consecutive game decided by six points or less for Miami after beating North Carolina by 26.
"Our last three games have been a good indication of how good the ACC really is," Larranaga said. "Teams in our league have so much physical talent, size, speed, athletic ability, and then some incredible shooters. Even though you saw a defensive battle tonight, you also saw some incredible shot-making by Harris and Nolte. Those are not easy shots. We defended them very well and yet they still have the ability to make them."
Rion Brown was the only other Hurricane in double figures with 10 points.
Harris, who came into the game with four straight 20-plus scoring outputs, led all scorers with 16 on 7-of-16 shooting.
Miami shot 46.8 percent from the floor (22 of 47) and held Virginia to 38.5 percent (20 of 52).
Julian Gamble sparked the Hurricanes in the early going as he knocked down a shot to open the scoring. After slamming home a dunk, Gamble blocked three consecutive shots by Akil Mitchell. Gamble’s lay-up gave Miami a 12-7 lead.
Both teams played a tight defense in the first half as Miami led throughout taking a 24-22 lead into the break. Gamble led all scorers with eight points.
Virginia took their first lead of the game at 29-28 on a free throw by Nolte with 13:06 left in the second half.
Miami responded with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes capped by a 3-pointer by Rion Brown to give UM a 36-29 lead.
Notes: Johnson was honored before the game for eclipsing the 1,000-point mark in his career. … Former Hurricane and current Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tommy Streeter was sitting courtside. … Miami out-scored Virginia 20-8 in bench points.