NEW YORK — Nearly a week after its thrilling comeback against Richmond, it’s almost time for Miami basketball to take the court again.
The Hurricanes (24-12, 10-8 ACC) will lead off the first action of the NIT Final Four, matching up against Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls (26-10, 13-5) at 7 p.m. on ESPN and WVUM.
“They’re an absolutely incredible defensive team. They don’t turn the ball over,” said coach Jim Larrañaga, speaking at Media Day at the Marriott Marquis just outside of Times Square. “This is going to be a great ball game. I hope our players realize the opportunity they have.”
Miami comes in off of victories against Richmond, Alabama and North Carolina Central, while Temple defeated Bucknell, George Washington and Louisiana Tech by an average of 12.3 points per game en route to New York – the most recent game, an 18-point victory over Louisiana Tech.
Miami has relied on different players throughout all three games in its scoring efforts. Manu Lecomte went for a combined 35 points in the first two games, but was quiet against Richmond. In his absence, Sheldon McClellan led the comeback with 16 points, including a huge three pointer to tie the game at 55, and the go-ahead basket moments later.
Tonye Jerkiri has continued to provide a vital defensive presence in the post. The junior center was just one rebound away from a double double against Alabama, and two points away against Richmond.
The Hurricanes face a tough task against Temple: limiting the production of Will Cummings. Cummings, a senior from Jacksonville, is averaging 14.9 PPG on the season, but 22 PPG in the NIT, including a 30-point outburst against Bucknell.
This is the first time Larrañaga has ever had the chance to coach in Madison Square Garden as a head coach, though he has quite a history there. Larrañaga’s older brother played for St. John’s, and he would frequently attend games and get to know the team. Later on, as a guard for Providence College, Larrañaga would make many trips with the Friars to MSG.
Larrañaga joked: “My first game as a player in Madison Square Garden was against Kareem Abdul-Jabar and UCLA. I thought I outplayed him, but they won.”