After getting kicked out of practice just a few days after a tough loss to Notre Dame, the University of Miami men’s basketball team looked to bounce and jump back into the winning column and ACC Title race.
The motivational technique paid off as the Hurricanes (13-5, 3-2 ACC) won their third game in the ACC in a hard fought 65-60 win over N.C. State (13-7, 4-3 ACC.)
After the game, Coach Larrañaga was proud of the way they handled such a talented N.C. State squad.
“I thought that was a terrific team,” Larrañaga said of N.C. State. “I’ve watched them in a number of games just score at will.”
Both teams started the game off perfect from the field, including freshman Abdul-Malik Abu, who bullied his way in the paint for the Wolfpack’s first 10 points.
“He was great,” said Larrañaga on Abu. “He was an All-American in high school and he played like it tonight.”
Miami stayed resilient and held on to a 24-18 lead almost entirely due to their prolific three-point shooting. The Canes’ shot 6 of 13 from three-point range to open up the game.
Coach L wasn’t surprised with the way his team shot from beyond the ark, however, but hopes to keep it going.
“I tell them at all the time we need eight threes to win,” Larrañaga said. “But if we keep shooting six threes per half, that would be even better.”
After a timeout the Hurricanes came out flat for the rest of the half.
Coach L mentioned earlier in the week at practice that N.C. State is maybe the most talented, athletic team in the league. It was shown in the final five minutes as the Wolfpack went on a quick 15-2 run to end the half.
But Miami’s sloppy play came to a halt in the second half as they took an early 36-35 lead with the help of Sheldon McClellan, who literally elevated to new heights with a high soaring layup over Abu.
Just minutes after the Wolfpack called a timeout, the ‘Dade-made’ Puerto Rican Angel Rodriguez drove down the court and dished it high above the rim for an incoming, athletically gifted Davon Reed for the alley-oop that brought down the BankUnited Center.
The biggest halftime adjustment from Miami came from inside the paint. After scoring only one bucket in the painted area in the first half, Miami came out more aggressively in the second half with 16 points.
Coach L mentioned that the team’s post game is not really a focal point, and that those second half points in the paint came in a more unconventional way.
“We don’t have a lot of post players…we’re not gonna post up that often,” Larrañaga said.” The key to getting points in the paint is beating the defense down the court so we can get layups before they set.”
Midway through second half McClellan was keeping his team afloat leading both teams in scoring with 14, including a step back three from the right wing in the face of Cody Martin, and following it up with a masterful no-look swing pass to Omar Sherman for a corner three, at which point the Canes lead 47-43.
After the game, McClellan knew that the way to scoring the ball proficiently was by playing great defense.
“I let the game come to me. I don’t like to rush shots. I have great teammates around me who put me in a great position to score,” McClellan said. “I was just worried about stopping Trevor Lacey and the offense will come.”
McClellan finished the game with just his second double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile on the N.C. State bench, Abu was held scoreless by the three-minute mark, shooting 0-2 from the field.
“He was averaging six points but got 12 points in a couple minutes,” McClellan said. “Tonye [Jekiri] definitely did a better job throughout the game. That was all we’re worried about.”
With the game coming down to the wire, Miami was unable to simply run out the clock. A couple of late turnovers gave N.C. State the chance to tie it up at 59 after being down six with two minutes left to play.
But a couple of free throws from the cold-blooded transfers, McClellan and Rodriguez, sealed the victory for the Hurricanes as they sent their fans home happy to cheers of “it’s great to be a Miami Hurricane.”