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29 November 2012

Canes pull off upset win in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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Magic numbers for the Hurricanes on Wednesday night: 47.7 percent shooting from the floor, 56.3 percent from 3-point range, and 88.9 percent from the free throw line in front of a raucous crowd of 5,791.

That’s what carried Miami to an upset of No. 13 Michigan State, 67-59, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the BankUnited Center.

In the first ever meeting between the two schools, the Canes and Spartans went toe to toe with each other in the first half. Miami shot 45.8 percent from the field and the Spartans 44.8 percent, while both teams shot 50 percent from beyond the arc.

With Michigan State using its size inside, the Spartans outscored Miami 16-6 in the paint. It was Miami’s Durand Scott who stepped up early to keep the Canes in the game, scoring nine of the first 11 points for his team.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, just do exactly what my coach expects me to do and tells me to do,” the senior guard said after the victory. “I know we needed a little spark so I tried to elevate the team and the team helped me.”

With Miami down by four at halftime, Hurricanes coach Jim Larranga knew his team needed to come out swinging in the second half.

“Our attitude needed to be much more aggressive, much more positive, much more of a fighter’s mentality,” he said. “We took a few punches from Michigan State, we needed to fight back and we did.”

The Canes opened up the second half on a 14-2 run as guards Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones finished what Scott had started, combining to go 5-for-7 from beyond the 3-point line. In the end, McKinney Jones’ sharp shooting led to a career-high 18 points.

“I think every one of my 3s came from a pass so, you know, my teammates were just finding me in the right spot,” McKinney Jones said. “So I got to give all the credit to them.”

It was truly a team effort, especially on the defensive end with Miami holding the visiting Spartans to 11-of-30 shooting from the field in the second half.

“I thought for the first time maybe since I’ve been here that our defense was at the right level of execution,” Larranaga said.

Michigan State also had to battle inconsistency shooting free throws, finishing a measly 45.5 percent from the foul line. Some of those free throw shooting woes can be chalked up to a packed student section that filled the BUC with an electric atmosphere. The students rushed the court after the final buzzer, celebrating the big win with their team.

“I was thinking ‘This is what college basketball is all about,’” Larranaga said. “In fact what I was really thinking is, ‘This is what being a college student is all about.’ Your greatest memories don’t come in the classroom. It comes at events like this that you’ll remember years down the road.”

But while the Canes undoubtedly cashed in a huge victory, there is no time to rest on their laurels.

“This is not the highlight of our season,” center Reggie Johnson said. “It was a heck of a game, both teams fought hard, but we got to continue to get better and get ready to play on Saturday.”

The Canes will be on the road to face Massachusetts at 2 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on CBS Sports.