Basketball, Sports

Championship bound! Canes advance to NIT Finals (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy HurricaneSports

Photo courtesy HurricaneSports

This story was updated on Wednesday, April 1 at 8:45 p.m.

NEW YORK – They didn’t have Angel Rodriguez.

And midway through the first half, they lost Tonye Jekiri.

And somehow, Miami won.

Utilizing another clutch performance from Sheldon McClellan, and lifted by the play of their young players, the Miami Hurricanes advanced to the NIT Championship Thursday night with a thrilling 60-57 win over Temple Tuesday night, after a Quenton Decosey three rimmed out at the buzzer.

“We’ve been like a M.A.S.H. unit. We’ve been playing without Angel Rodríguez for a while against Richmond; Manu sprained his knee, and Ja’Quan pulled a ligament in his thumb; and then tonight, Tonye Jekiri got a concussion … but somehow, some way, these guys find a way to stick together, get some good defensive stops, and then we got very good fast break opportunities and made some shots in transition,” said coach Jim Larrañaga post game.

As the first half rolled on and Miami appeared in an offensive rhythm, it was immediately disrupted after the injury to Jerkiri. He did not return to the court after heading off to the locker room. Jekiri sustained a concussion and will miss the NIT final.

The Hurricanes offense immediately suffered, and Temple extended their lead to as many as 11 points in the first half. Miami responded with a 9-3 run to end the half, heading into the break down by five, 30-25.

Miami’s freshman began to contribute in the second half. Omar Sherman had just six points, but back to back baskets that began to turn the tide in Miami’s direction.

Ja’Quan Neweton scored nine, and Deandre Burnett added eight, maybe none bigger than a length of the court drive that gave Miami a three point lead with less than a minute remaining.

Larrañaga chatted about that play after the game – “Angel Rodríguez actually came to me and said, ‘Put Dre in, he’s ready.’  So we put Deandre Burnett in, gave him a chance to go to the basket; he went right to the rim and made a big shot.”

Sheldon McClellan had 16 points for the second straight game, and added 11 rebounds for a double double.

“The second half we came out and played more aggressive I feel like, including myself,” said McClellan, who has been critical in late-game situations for Miami now in back-to-back games. “Coach ran a couple things and got me going offensively. We just fed off our defense, and it kind of led to fastbreak baskets and getting to the free throw line.”

With Jekiri’s absence, the Hurricanes were aided by Temple’s poor perimeter shooting; the Owls shot just 2-19 from beyond the arc. Temple star Will Cummings was held to just 11 points on 3-15 shooting; he had been averaging 22 PPG in the first three NIT games.

Miami will play Stanford, also a No. 2 seed, in the NIT Championship game. The Canes have not faced Stanford since 1989.

In its last game on Tuesday, Stanford toppled Old Dominion 67-60, clinching the championship game. Before that, the team defeated two opponents at home in Maples Pavilion in a span of three days: Rhode Island, 74-65, and Vanderbilt, 78-75.

Senior guard Chasson Randle is the leading scorer for Stanford, averaging 19.4 points per game. Senior Anthony Brown follows Randle with 14.9 points per game and leads the team in rebounds with 6.8 per game.

The Hurricanes look to become NIT champions 9 p.m. Thursday at Madison Square Garden. The game can be seen on ESPN, and heard on WVUM.org.

Courtney Fiorini contributed to this report.

April 1, 2015

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AJ Ricketts


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