UM losing skid hits six after falling to Georgia Tech, No. 10 UNC up next on the road

A year ago this week, the University of Miami men’s basketball team was ranked No. 13 in the country following a seven-game winning streak, had a 23-4 record, and was on the verge of clinching a share of the ACC regular season championship.

An at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament was a given, and the Hurricanes proceeded to go on a magical ride to the Final Four.

It is a far different picture for the Hurricanes heading into Monday night’s road game against 10th-ranked North Carolina.

Miami has lost six games in a row, the latest an 80-76 defeat at home to Georgia Tech on Saturday. The Hurricanes dropped to 15-13 overall, 6-11 in the ACC and are one loss away from tying their longest losing streak since 2007, when Frank Haith was coach. Their only realistic chance of making the NCAA Tournament is by winning the ACC Tournament.

Despite the slide, freshman Kyshawn George remains optimistic.

“Every game’s the same; every game’s worth one,” he said about facing UNC again. Their previous game, Feb. 10, came down to the final minute before the then-No. 3 Tar Heels hung on 75-72.

“We have to stay positive, stay confident and work hard,” said George, who led UM with 16 points against Georgia Tech. “We know we’re capable of doing it. We’re never too far. We have to be constant for 40 minutes and pull together as a team. Obviously, you’re never satisfied, and there’s frustration after the game because who’s not mad after the game, but it’s about realizing what we can do better.”

In a fast-paced game that sometimes resembled a track meet, both teams were on fire from beyond the arc in the first half. By halftime, the Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets had combined for 20 three-pointers. Georgia Tech shot 11-for-20 from distance (55 percent) and Miami was 9-for-23 (60 percent).

George, the Swiss freshman guard, had the hottest hand for the Hurricanes, going 4-of-6 from three-point range in the first half. All 16 of his points were scored by halftime, and Miami held a 49-45 lead.

Georgia Tech opened the second half on a 9-0 run and Miami trailed by as many as 13 points with seven minutes to go. The Hurricanes closed to within two, but were unable to regain the lead. They were held to 27 points in the second half.

“The start of the second half was just a big part of the story,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “They did a great job coming out of halftime…we fought back late but you have to give them credit. They shot lights out from three. They outrebounded us and they had 22 assists…We forced some turnovers to give us a chance late in the game but, unfortunately, were not able to overcome a 10-point [deficit].”

Putting themselves in position to win and not pulling it off has been a recurring theme this season. Wooga Poplar also felt UM players were not working as hard as the Yellow Jackets early in the second half.

The Hurricanes were playing without Nijel Pack for the third game in a row on Saturday as he deals with a knee injury. His status for Monday is unknown.

Miles Kelly tied a career-high with seven three-pointers and finished with 25 points for the Yellow Jackets Saturday. Bensley Joseph had 16 for Miami, Wooga Poplar added 14 and Matt Cleveland had 10. UM’s leading scorer and rebounder Norchad Omier, who can normally be counted on for a double-double, managed just seven points and six rebounds.

Miami has three regular-season games remaining at North Carolina, at home against Boston College on Mar. 6 and on the road at FSU Mar. 9.