February 07, 2016

The difference between Miami and Georgia Tech in the ACC standings is four games and seven places, but certain conference results are hinting toward the on-court gap being not quite what one might expect.

That could be especially true Sunday with the 17th-ranked Hurricanes headed to Atlanta seeking just their second league road win.

The Yellow Jackets (12-10, 2-7) have lost their last two after a 90-83 win at N.C. State on Jan. 27, but they've yet to have an ACC game decided by more than nine points.

Miami (17-4, 6-3) is coming off Wednesday's 79-70 home win over Notre Dame following an 85-69 loss at N.C. State on Jan. 30. The Hurricanes are just two games back in the conference race, though they're 1-3 on the road.

"Every game really matters," Angel Rodriguez said. "More than anything, I always say we can't let one loss become two. I thought we did a great job of coming out with a lot of energy and with the right mindset. As you can see, we didn't let one loss become two. Hopefully now we let one win become two."

Rodriguez has averaged 13.2 points on 46.8 percent shooting with 5.6 assists over his last five games after opening conference play with 7.3 points on 27.0 percent - including 2 of 22 from 3-point range - and 3.0 assists through four games.

Miami shot 56.4 percent against Notre Dame to match its best mark in conference play, which featured 30 bench points with those four players combining to go 11 for 21.

"Often times when you go to the bench you have a drop off," coach Jim Larranaga said. "We don't."

The play of his reserves could be on the upswing with the emergence of Anthony Lawrence Jr. The freshman played 21 minutes after never topping 12 in his previous seven ACC games, and the result was a personal-best 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting. In games in which he's topped 20 minutes, Lawrence has averaged 13.3 points and shot 57.9 percent, but that's only happened three times as Larranaga eases him into the rotation.

"I didn't get discouraged at all, because coach L told me before the beginning of the season, 'You're going to have to be patient with me,'" Lawrence said. "... I knew my time was going to come, and I was going to play well."

The Yellow Jackets won last season's meeting in Miami 70-50 on Jan. 28, 2015, though the Hurricanes have taken the last three in Atlanta by an average of 14.0 points without letting Georgia Tech reach 50.

The home struggles have also been there more recently for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is coming off Tuesday's 80-71 loss to Duke for its third straight home defeat after knocking off then-No. 4 Virginia on Jan. 9.

The Blue Devils went 11 of 23 from 3-point range, and Georgia Tech's last three opponents have hit 41.8 percent of their outside shots. At the other end, coach Brian Gregory's team made 2 of 19 from deep and is shooting 25.5 percent over a 1-5 span.

"We need to get some more basketball out of some other guys," Gregory said. "We've got some guys that need to kind of turn it around a little bit as we get to these next few home games."

Top scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt has been limited to 8.0 points on 4-of-14 shooting in the last two games. The senior had 24 points in last season's win over the then-No. 23 Hurricanes, while the Miami backcourt of Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan was held to a collective six points on 2 of 15.

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