Just a day after receiving the highest ranking in the program's history, the Hurricanes survived an upset bid from visiting Virginia, posting a 54-50 victory Tuesday night on the strength of guard Shane Larkin's bullet pass, center Reggie Johnson's layup, and guard Durand Scott's steal and free throws.
After the Cavaliers tied it at 50-50 on Evan Nolte's 3-pointer from the corner with 14.3 seconds left, the Hurricanes put the ball in Larkin's hands.
The sophomore ran around screens by Johnson and Kenny Kadji, then found Johnson open underneath the basket. Johnson laid in the ball with 5.7 seconds left.
Virginia still had time to get down the floor for a potential tying or winning basket, but Scott swiped Paul Jesperson's inbounds pass, was fouled, and hit two foul shots with 4.1 on the clock to clinch it.
"A heads-up play on Scott's part," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "Not a heads-up play on our part."
The victory not only kept the Hurricanes (22-3, 13-0) unbeaten and in command of the Atlantic Coast Conference race, it also extended their overall winning streak to 14 games. That ties a school record first set by the 1946-47 Hurricanes and matched by the 2001-02 Miami team.
But like the two wins that preceded this one -- 45-43 at Clemson and 74-68 at Florida State -- this one was a defensive struggle.
The Hurricanes held the Cavaliers (18-8, 8-5) to just 38.5 percent shooting. Although they shot 46.8 percent from the field, the Hurricanes never were able to shake the visitors.
Miami's biggest lead was just seven points, once in each half.
Each time the Cavaliers were able to respond, though a 29-28 advantage early in the second half was their only lead of the game.
Junior Joe Harris kept the Cavaliers in the game with 16 points. Both he and Nolte hit big 3-pointers in the final minute.
"Our last three games have been a good indication of how good the ACC really is," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "The teams in our league have so much physical talent -- size, speed, athletic ability -- and then they are incredible shooters.
"Even though you saw a defensive battle tonight, you also saw some incredible shot-making by Harris and then Nolte at the end. Those were not easy shots. We defended them very well, and they still had the ability to make them."
Larkin led Miami in scoring with 11 points, and Rion Brown added 10 off the bench. Larkin also had six assists, with his biggest the pass inside to Johnson.
The tight game was what Johnson, a fifth-year senior, said he expected when the night began.
"When we play Virginia, it's always a battle," he said. "The ACC tournament, last year up there, every time we play those guys, it's always a battle."
Bennett, whose club is in need of a so-called "signature win" to help its cause when it comes to NCAA Tournament selection time, is looking forward to a possible rematch in the ACC tourney. This was the only regular-season meeting between the two.
"I told the guys it's got to sting," he said of the loss. "But you've got to learn from it and bounce back. There's a lot of basketball left."
NOTES: Johnson, a senior center, was recognized before the game for becoming the 34th Miami player to top the 1,000-point mark for his career. Johnson went over the mark Feb. 13 when the Hurricanes won at Florida State. He scored eight points Tuesday, bringing his total to 1,015. ... Miami center Julian Gamble blocked four shots, including three a split second apart against Akil Mitchell on one Virginia possession early in the game. Gamble scored all his eight points in the first half. ... Virginia has never won in Miami's BankUnited Center, falling to 0-4 in the Hurricanes' on-campus arena and 0-5 all-time in Miami.