March 6, 2012
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Hurricanes (18-11, 9-7 ACC) are an NCAA Tournament “bubble team” heading to Thursday night’s ACC Tournament game against Tech, and they figure to be dialed in.
Tech has been much better in a lot of ways recently, and if the Jackets are to match up with Miami Thursday, Holsey and Miller are likely going to need to approximate the work they did in the second half of last Saturday’s 69-62 win over Wake Forest in Philips Arena.
They combined for 18 points and nine rebounds after intermission, when Tech’s inside game put away the Demon Deacons even though Wake was relying heavily on zone defenses.
Miami has some bigs in 6-foot-10, 285-pounder Reggie Johnson, 6-11 Kenny Kadji and 6-8 forward DeQuan Jones of metro Atlanta (Stone Mountain, Wheeler High) who all start and/or play major minutes in most games.
“They have great size inside, obviously,” said Jackets’ coach Brian Gregory, whose team will tip off at 9 p.m. (or later) in Philips.
“With the versatility of those big guys to be able to score on the block and also . . . stretch the defense . . . you have to play a total game in order to be able to compete with them. They’ve won games in a lot of different ways.”
Tech played one of its least impressive games in falling 64-49 to Miami in Philips on Jan. 24.
“We did nothing well,” Gregory said. “Some of that was [the Hurricanes].”
Holsey and Miller each scored four points in that game and each grabbed but four rebounds. Miller was ill, which didn’t help.
Times have changed.
The Jackets won two of their last three games, both at Philips, and lost on an overtime buzzer-beater at Virginia Tech in the game before that.
Tech isn’t known as a fast break team, and the `Canes certainly saw nothing like the play in the second half of the Jackets’ last game when Holsey picked off a pass near Wake’s right elbow, put the ball on the floor and took off.
Miller made haste down the right side, and he had something of a head start as he’d gone high to trail his man while Holsey was picking off the past.
A single Wake defender was back-tracking hard, and Holsey gave the ball up at nearly the perfect moment — for a Miller dunk.
Now, the 6-8 Holsey wants some time at point guard.
“The thing about Daniel is he knows I can dribble the ball,” he said with a smile. “I told coach, `You see how I can push the ball.’ “
Yeah, like Holsey said.
“He was the assist man on Saturday,” Miller said. “Usually, he’s the go-to guy. [Wake] ran zone to keep him from scoring and he can easily hit other players.”
Obviously, the Holsey-Miller fastbreak was not planned, and it’s not likely to become a primary part of what Tech tries to do offensively.
They need to bring that second-half energy, though, and they cannot afford to wait until after intermission to do it. Gregory told them at halftime against the Deacons to be more aggressive against the Wake zone, and the dividends were clear.
“You have to do a great job on the glass. You have to do a great job in transition defense,” Gregory said. “[Miami] can get after you defensively, so you have to take care of the ball.
“They had some match-up positives with Kadji [who had 21 points and eight rebounds against Tech], and he really hurt us, and then we didn’t do a good job of guarding the [3-point line]. They were 9 of 17 [as a team].”