CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The seniors have come to the rescue for the Miami Hurricanes — again.
Last season, the Hurricanes rode six seniors to the ACC regular season and postseason championships.
Miami doesn’t have anywhere near that talent this year. But ever since Miami coach Jim Larranaga went to his all-senior starting lineup, the struggling Hurricanes are 2-1.
That includes their 71-64 victory over Notre Dame at BankUnited Center on Wednesday.
Senior guard Rion Brown led Miami (13-13, 4-9) with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Senior guard Garrius Adams added 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Both Brown and Adams had five assists.
Miami also made 8 of 8 foul shots in the final minute to finally win its first ACC home game of the season, following six losses.
“The main thing for me is that I didn’t want to be the reason we lost another home game,” Brown said with a laugh and a look of relief on his face. “Down the stretch against Pitt (on Feb. 5), I missed two free throws. So that was the main thing on my mind.”
Miami is now in a three-way tie for 11th place in the conference, and breaking through at home weighed heavily on the players’ minds.
“I didn’t think that we’d have to wait this long for our first home win,” Brown said. “I feel like we were letting the fans down. I wanted to get that feel of home-court advantage back.”
With all those veterans starting, Miami got off to a fast start, making its first five shots, including three 3-pointers.
“I think it had a lot to do with us passing and sharing the ball,” Adams said. “We got in the lane a lot, and we were just attacking, which is what Coach wanted us to do from the beginning.”
Notre Dame (14-13, 5-9), which was led by forward Pat Connaughton’s 22 points, had its two-game win streak snapped. The Irish are just 1-6 in ACC road games this season.
With Miami leading 61-56 and 57 seconds remaining, Hurricanes freshman point guard Manu Lecomte banked in a runner to give his team a cushion.
But Connaughton made a couple of huge plays — a corner 3-pointer followed by a steal and an assist to guard Steve Vasturia, who also hit a 3-pointer.
That cut Miami’s lead to 63-62 with 35 seconds left.
Larranaga said Adams’ baseball pass that was stolen by Connaughton caught him by surprise.
“That was a spontaneous play,” he said. “Our seniors made that decision on their own — didn’t confer with me at all. It is better when everyone is on the same page. I think it would have been open. We needed to time it better.”
After that, the teams traded two points each — free throws by Brown and a layup by Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson.
Brown then made two more free throws, but a missed drive by Jackson doomed Notre Dame.
Miami, which shot 62 percent in the first half, led 38-26 at the break. Miami also shot 75 percent on 3-pointers (6 of 8).
Notre Dame shot just 29 percent at halftime and had to feel fortunate to trail by just 12 points.
After Miami took its final shot of the first half too early and missed, Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins made a 3-pointer with one second left to give the Irish at least some momentum heading into the break.
Overall, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he was happy with his team’s effort in the second half.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Miami,” he said. “They got off to such a great start and played so well. But I’m really proud of our group. It’s just that it’s exhausting getting out of that hole.”
Notre Dame’s star of the night agreed.
“It was a great comeback,” Connaughton said. “Hopefully, we can take that effort moving forward.”
NOTES: This was the teams’ first meeting since 2004, when Notre Dame beat Miami 72-62. … PG Eric Atkins on Wednesday started his 100th game for Notre Dame. He leads the ACC in minutes played this season
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