CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The difference between the Miami team that Boston College saw three weeks ago and the one it saw Tuesday night was more than just the winning streak.
“There was a 290-pound difference,” Ryan Anderson said.
The first go-round, there was a noticeable hole in the Hurricanes’ lineup in the outline of senior center Reggie Johnson’s 6-foot-10-inch, 292-pound frame.
They could usually count on him for about nine rebounds a night.
Without him, the Eagles were able to snag one more rebound than the Canes and came within a free throw of sending the game into overtime in a Jan. 16 loss.
With him Tuesday night, nearly every Miami possession felt like it had an extra possession.
The Hurricanes grabbed the rebound on 10 of their first 12 misses.
Johnson grabbed nine rebounds by himself, three on the offensive glass, but it wasn’t just one person. All but two of the 12 players the Hurricanes dressed had a board by the end of the first half. They grabbed 42 on the night, 16 on their own misses, 13 in the first half, and they turned those extra chances into 11 points.
“They bring big body after big body,” Anderson said. “That’s where they pretty much won the game at in the first half — on the glass.” Lacking in size with 7-footer Dennis Clifford battling knee issues, and facing a team with a glut of it, Anderson was the only true big man in the Eagles’ starting lineup.
Thus the Hurricanes continued to shred the Atlantic Coast Conference, handing BC its worst conference beating of the season, 72-50.
Miami’s overall winning streak stretched to 10 games, two shy of the tear they went on in 2007-08 when they reached the NCAA Tournament. The Hurricanes ran their winning streak in the ACC to nine straight, the most since Duke went on a 10-game run in that same season. Should they beat North Carolina Saturday, they’ll become the only team besides the Blue Devils or the Tar Heels to start the season with 10 ACC wins since 1981.
Miami has beaten BC six straight times now, four under coach Jim Larranaga.
If anything, the game showed the difference between a Miami team that’s reaping the benefits of a quick rebuilding process and a BC team that’s still under construction.
“What happens is when you start believing in yourselves and start seeing it come through, each and every game it snowballs,” said BC coach Steve Donahue of Miami. “You have a team that has an incredible amount of confidence and it’s a team that’s starting to believe if they do some little things like really work hard that they can be really, really good.”
Hurricanes point guard Shane Larkin, the ACC player of the week who considered BC during his recruiting process, scored 10 points and had five assists. Eagles point guard Joe Rahon, who earned rookie of the week honors, was held scoreless for the first time in his short career, coming up empty on all four of his shots.
Between Larkin, Kenny Kadji (16 points, eight rebounds), Durand Scott (11 points, seven rebounds), and Rion Brown (22 points, five 3s) the Hurricanes could pick their scoring options out of a hat.
After Kadji connected on a 4-point play — nailing a 3 from the top of the arc while spilling to the floor after being fouled by Eddie Odio to make it 42-29 — the Eagles were just trying to answer the standing eight count.
“Just, really daggers,” Donahue said. “At that point we were hanging on. They were physically handing it to us.”
As has been the case much of the season, the Eagles squeezed as much as they could out of Anderson (14 points, 11 rebounds), got 16 points from Olivier Hanlan, and had to scrounge for scoring beyond them.
“I think that’s what you see in freshmen and young players,” Donahue said. “We’re not necessarily a team that understands exactly how we’re going to win every game. We’re just trying to develop that and evolve.”
The Eagles knew they’d be all but conceding some rebounds in going with a small lineup without Clifford. The numbers in the ACC this season said it wasn’t the worst approach. The teams that had outrebounded their opponents in conference play this year had a losing record (23-25). This time, though, the Hurricanes made every rebound matter.
Between the 13 offensive rebounds, 5 steals, and 1 block, the Hurricanes took 13 more shots from the floor than the Eagles in the first half alone. By the time Miami came out for the second, it cruised.
“Obviously, our Achilles’ heel is on the glass,” Donahue said. “We haven’t done a good job of that recently and teams realize that. Obviously we talked about it enough, but we didn’t do it and it really hurt us. We don’t have a lot of margin for error there with our size.”
Miami hasn’t lost a home game all season (10-0).
“They have a lot of confidence now that they’ve reeled off so many wins in a row,” Anderson said.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.