With their NCAA tournament aspirations in question, the University of Miami Hurricanes answered with a resounding 76-52 blowout win over the Virginia Tech Hokies. Miami has played well this year against high caliber opponents, but Jim Larrañaga’s squad has stumbled against opponents was of lesser quality. But not on Wednesday.
The Hurricanes played with an intensity they have rarely shown over 40 minutes all season, and kept their Big Dance dreams alive. Miami next plays at No. 12 Louisville on Saturday.
“We’re trying to go 6-0 these last six games in the conference, so we just take it one game at a time. We don’t look ahead to the next opponent,” said junior guard and leading scorer Sheldon McClellan.
Miami’s dominant attack against the Hokies was led by McClellan, who scored 21 points. McClellan, who has the top shooting percentage in the nation for a guard in a Power 5 conference, shot 7-10 from the field.
“I have great teammates that give me the ball when I need to score. I like to let the game come to me,” McClellan said.
ACC leading rebounder Tonye Jekiri chipped in 15 points on 6-7 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds. In contrast, the entire Hokie team had 19 rebounds for the game. Virginia Tech’s tallest player, starting center Shane Henry, is only 6-8. Jekiri dominated the paint on both ends of the floor all night.
Struggling point guard Angel Rodriguez produced a solid game and scored 11 points while adding four assists for the Hurricanes (17-9, 7-6 ACC). This season has been a rollercoaster for the team captain, who has fought to find his form all season. With the ACC schedule nearing its conclusion and the Hurricanes’ tournament hopes in the balance, the team needs Rodriguez to be a reliable performer down the stretch.
Virginia Tech (10-16, 2-11 ACC) entered the game losing 11 of their last 13, but the Hokies challenged the Hurricanes for a half. Virginia Tech shot 9-24 from the field before the intermission, but only trailed Miami 29-26.
Miami’s superior talent showed out in the second half and they outscored the Hokies 47-26 in the period. Miami shot 58 percent from the field after the break, while only allowing the Hokies to connect 7-22 field goal attempts.
Head coach Jim Larrañaga received a technical foul with 12:37 left in the game, when McClellan was caught goal tending after the shooter had been fouled. On his walk back towards the Hurricanes’ bench, Larrañaga took off his jacket pumped up the crowd with his hands, imploring them to get louder.
“I can’t remember the last time I got a technical foul,” Larrañaga said. “And I can only remember taking my jacket off one time in my career before tonight.”
The fans in attendance answered his plea, and rose to their feet.Larrañaga had brought the BUC to life.
Now, Miami sets its sights on the Louisville Cardinals. Miami has their eyes on a top 40 RPI and will need to beat either Louisville or North Carolina to move into the top 40.
Entering Wednesday’s contest, the Hurricanes were RPI ranked 64th in the nation. In addition to a victory against either Louisville or North Carolina,Larrañaga’s squad will need to win its remaining ACC games over Florida State, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech.