Miami coach Jim Larranaga's welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule included a heartbreaker loss, and a ray of hope for the Hurricanes heading into the thick of league play.
Now they know they can play some pretty stout defense if they want to.
''We haven't been playing that caliber of defense in our first 13 games,'' the first-year coach said after his team's rally came up just short in a 52-51 loss to No. 21 Virginia. The Cavaliers shot just 38 percent, and got 23 points from All-ACC forward Mike Scott.
''That's something that we can build upon,'' Larranaga said of the defensive effort, ''although our next opponent is Carolina and they play entirely different. They are a team that tries to score 100.''
The Hurricanes (9-5, 0-1 ACC) scored 99 in their previous game, but came up short against the Cavaliers when Durand Scott's layup missed in the final seconds. He grabbed the rebound, but Virginia's Sammy Zeglinski grabbed onto the ball, too, tying it up until the buzzer sounded.
''I would have had a chance to pass it,'' Scott said, adding that Malcolm Grant, the other option on the final play, was open in the corner. Zeglinski had been guarding Grant.
Instead, the Cavaliers held on, depriving the Hurricanes of a third consecutive stunning comeback in the series. The teams last met in the first round of the ACC tournament last year, and Virginia saw a 10-point lead disappear in 40 seconds and was ushered out of the field.
Mike Scott scored 23 points to lead Virginia (14-1, 1-0), which has won 12 in a row.
Zeglinski added six points, making a 3-pointer with 3:42 to play just after Miami had taken its first lead since early in the game at 46-45 on Kenny Kadji's breakaway dunk.
Kadji led Miami with 14 points and Scott had 12, all in the second half.
Zeglinski's wide open 3-pointer with 3:42 to play was his first basket of the half, and gave the Cavaliers a 48-46 lead. After a Miami miss, Jontel Evans' floater doubled Virginia's lead to 50-46, but Durand Scott's two free throws for Miami made it 50-48 with 2:34 left.
Mike Scott's driving basket made it 52-48, but Evans was caught holding Durand Scott's wrist on his driving basket, and Scott's bonus free throw again made it a 1-point advantage.
Joe Harris had a chance to pad it for Virginia with 18.2 seconds to go, but he badly missed the front end of a one-and-one, Miami rebounded and called timeout with 13.1 seconds left.
The second half was close throughout.
Malcolm Brogdon gave Virginia 40-36 lead with a 3-pointer, but Kadji hit a pair of free throws and Durand Scott scored on another drive, this with the left hand, to tie it at 40-all.
After Harris hit a 3 for Virginia, his first field goal of the game, and Rion Brown answered with one for Miami, also his first field goal, Scott's baby hook gave Virginia a 45-53 lead.
Kadji made a free throw for Miami with 4:42 left, and the Hurricanes retained possession when he missed the second and the ball went out of bounds off Assane Sene. Miami didn't score, but Kadji did moments later with a dunk over Harris, giving Miami its first lead since early.
That set up the dramatic finish.
Virginia led 26-17 at halftime, and got the lead to 33-23 on Jontel Evans' foul-line jumper with 16:02 to play before the Hurricanes started to rally. Kadji started it with a 3-pointer from the top off the key, and Reggie Johnson scored on a putback for the third time in the half.
After Mike Scott hit a pair of free throws, Grant made a 3-pointer and Durand Scott scored on an acrobatic drive, was fouled and made the shot, pulling Miami to within 35-34.
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