Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said before the season that this was the year Miami sought to not just have a good team, but maintain a great program.
Wins like Miami’s 69-67 upset at the University of Florida Monday night suggest the Canes are headed in that direction.
In just the second game of the season, the Canes rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat a team that hadn’t been beat since 2004, in large part due to the heroics of redshirt junior, Angel Rodriguez.
The transfer from Kansas State had just two points in the first half, as Miami found themselves in a 12-point deficit, and at different times in the second half a 14 and 15-point hole. However, that is when Rodriguez began the sequence that led Miami to one of their top regular season wins in program history.
A three in transition made it a nine-point game. One possession later, a three from the same spot made it a six-point game. Rodriguez would sink three more contested threes to bring the Hurricanes back, including the dagger with 16 seconds left, a fade-away in the face of Eli Carter that has now already found a place in Miami lore.
“I haven’t been in a zone like that since I was in high school,” he said after. That alone is a story in and of itself.
Rodriguez came to Miami when he was 15 years old from Puerto Rico, leaving behind his mother for the dream of pursuing an opportunity to play college basketball.
In high school Rodriguez invested all his energy into getting better, eventually earning All Miami-Dade County honors before signing to play for Frank Martin at Kansas State, who spoke Spanish as well and had formed a friendship with Rodriguez. But a season after Martin left for South Carolina, Rodriguez felt it was time to transfer. He now leads the Canes.
The 2012 ACC Championship and Sweet Sixteen team squad struggled in the early season, losing in an exhibition to St. Leo, and early season game on the road to Florida Gulf Coast University. Last year’s team dropped the home opener to St. Francis.
Winning on the road against a ranked team that made the Final Four the season before is not the kind of win Miami basketball is used to early in the season.
“We’ve had some very good road wins in the last few years,” said Larrañaga post-game, “but this early in the season is a major step forward.”
Under Larrañaga, Miami has had the most road wins out of any ACC team, two 20-win seasons, and an ACC Championship.
There’s a long way to go, and Miami must back up their big win in a tournament in Charleston this weekend. If Miami continues to play like they did in the second half Monday night, perhaps they will have fans pack the BankUnited Center like it’s 2012-2013 all over again.