CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Nijel Pack scored 22 points and No. 19 Miami beat Louisville 93-85 on Saturday night.
Five days following its dominant 22-point home win over Duke, Miami (20-5, 11-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) could not shake off the conference’s last-place team until Pack’s 3-pointer with 2:44 remaining made it 82-72. Pack shot 8 of 14, including 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Isaiah Wong and Norchad Omier finished with 21 points each and Jordan Miller added 10 for the Hurricanes, who are 14-0 at home.
“I feel in the ACC records don’t really matter,” Wong said. “Everybody’s tough. Everybody competes with the same energy. We just kept focused and played the hardest.”
El Ellis scored a career-high 33 points and had five assists while Jae’Lyn Withers finished with 18 points for the Cardinals (3-22, 1-13).
The Hurricanes built double-digit leads early in each half but Louisville responded and avoided the lopsided margins common of its season.
“That was a heck of a college basketball game,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “I thought we played really well. I thought Louisville played outstanding basketball.”
The Hurricanes scored 20 points off turnovers and clinched the win with six converted free throws in the final 40 seconds. They finished 23 of 27 from the line.
“When you’re playing a team like Miami, you can’t give them 20 points off your turnovers,” Cardinals coach Kenny Payne said. “Whenever there’s adversity, we compound the mistakes. We can’t compound mistakes, especially on a night when we’re scoring the ball really well.”
Bensley Joseph hit a 3-pointer 4:41 into the second half to put Miami ahead 60-49, but the Cardinals rallied and narrowed it to single digits.
Ellis’ two free throws with 4:47 remaining cut the gap to 74-70.
“We were just trying not to let the game get out of reach,” Ellis said. “And even if they go on a run we had to continue to try to get stops and be solid on offense.”
The Cardinals overcame a game-starting 10-0 deficit and took their first lead at 34-33 on Ellis’ jumper with 4:35 remaining in the first half. Withers’ lay-up capped a 9-0 run and made it 36-33.
After Ellis’ lay-up gave Louisville another three-point advantage at 38-35, Miami responded with seven unanswered points. Pack’s lay-up with 1:10 left ended the spurt before Kamari Lands’ 3-pointer with three seconds remaining got the Cardinals within 42-41 at halftime.
“We knew how good Ellis was and how big they tried to play,” Pack said. “In the second half we had to step it up defensively.”
HOME FOR THE WEEKEND
The Hurricanes’ first half of the conference schedule featured one weekend home game. But the contest against Louisville began a stretch of four consecutive Saturday home appearances at Watsco Center. Miami’s remaining conference home games — all on Saturday — will be against Wake Forest, Florida State and Pittsburgh.
Miami: The victory secured the Hurricanes’ 20th season of at least 20-wins. Eight of those seasons are under Larrañaga.
Louisville: Ellis has scored 20 or more points in 10 games – five in the conference. He shot 1 of 10 from the field and finished with seven points in the Cardinals’ 80-53 home loss against Miami Dec. 4.
“At the beginning of the season I was still trying to adjust the way coach wanted me to play,” Ellis said. “Tonight was one of those games that I let the game come to me. When you do that, the rim gets even bigger.”
Louisville: Hosts No. 8 Virginia on Wednesday.
Miami: Visits North Carolina on Monday.
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