In the last regular season game of the season, the Miami Hurricanes, who were celebrating senior day, needed a win and a St. John’s loss to clinch a first round bye in the Big East tournament.
The Hurricanes (23-6) held up to their half of the deal with an 83-77 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies (10-18) Saturday. The win improved the ‘Canes to 14-2 at the Arena this season and tied a Hurricanes record for most wins in a season with 23. The ‘Canes also improved to 10-6 in the Big East with the win.
“I’m extremely proud of this basketball team and what they have been able to do this season,” said head coach Perry Clarke after the game.
St. Johns also held up to its part of the bargain, as they were upset at Villanova 77-62 on Sunday. The Hurricanes earned the No. two seed in the east and will play the winner of Boston College and Rutgers at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Before the game, the ‘Canes paid tribute to their seniors: Elton Tyler, Jerry Schlie, and John Salmons. Clarke gave Schlie his first ever start as a Miami Hurricane. His early three pointer electrified the crowd and gave the team a huge boost.
“People want to come and support us. It means a lot and it feels good to have people cheer for you,” said Schlie, who had five points in the game.
The Hokies didn’t end their season without a fight. They hit 10 three pointers in the game and came storming back from down 18 at one point to get within three at 72-69 late in the second half.
Brian Chase and Carlos Dixon led the second half charge, as they both hit four three pointers .
However, the story on senior day was the play of Tyler, who carried the ‘Canes with 24 points and eight rebounds, 20 of which came in the first half. Tyler at two different points went on an 8-0 and 6-0 run respectively by himself.
Along with Tyler, fellow senior John Salmons had 11 points and 10 assists. All 11 points came in the second half of play.
Overall, the ‘Canes put five players in double digits, as Barnes, Rice, and Jones joined the parade, which is not unusual for this team, as all five starters average double digits. The ‘Canes closed out the game by hitting their free throws down the stretch.
After the game, Clarke had nothing but positive things to say about his seniors.
“The way these guys stepped up to being the hunted is a testament to them. These two guys (Tyler and Salmons), along with Jerry, because of what they have been through, have meant a lot to our basketball team,” said Clarke.
In their farewell game, the Hurricane seniors got to go out in style in front of the home crowd. They were all satisfied with the experience they have had the last four years, which included a sweet 16 run.
“Playing with Elton and Jerry for four years has been a great ride for me. I am happy I made the decision to come here,” said John Salmons.
Salmons will leave Miami as the only player in UM history to amass over 1000 career points, 600 career rebounds, 400 career assists, and 150 career steals in 121 games played as a member of the Hurricanes.