The No. 12 Hurricanes’ 65-63 win over ACC foe Pittsburgh on Tuesday came down to a tip-in from redshirt senior guard Angel Rodriguez in the final seconds. The Canes’ victory was full of drama and excitement down to the final stretch. Here’s a look back at the final minute of the game.
With 55 seconds left and the Canes up 63-60, senior center Tonye Jekiri made his way to the charity stripe after being fouled by the Panthers. The game likely would not have come down to the wire if Jekiri sank the free throws, but he missed both shots.
“I felt like he really saved us because of the two free throws I missed,” Jekiri said of Rodriguez.
With the Canes (19-4, 8-3) up three points, the Panthers marched down the court and guard James Robinson drilled a three to tie the game.
The Canes now only had 31 seconds to win the game in regulation or have it settled in overtime. Miami had one foul to give and one timeout remaining at this stage. Conventional basketball thinking would dictate that Head Coach Jim Larrañaga should use that timeout.
“I had one timeout and I could have called it, and maybe I should have, but they would have switched their defense,” Larrañaga said.
Rodriguez was happy about his coach’s decision not to do so.
“At first, once they made the three … I was hoping coach didn’t call a timeout. The game was tied and I was giving him the hand like, ‘Please, just let us play it.’ He did. He trusted us,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez brought the ball up the court as the Panthers’ defense was switching from man-to-man to a 3-2 zone. The veteran ball handler found redshirt senior guard Sheldon McClellan open in the right corner for three. Sheldon, a 40-percent three-point shooter, surprisingly missed the shot.
Thankfully for the Canes, the team crashed the boards. After junior guard Davon Reed’s put-back did not fall, Rodriguez slipped past Michael Young and tipped in the game-winner.
The 6,609 fans at the BankUnited Center erupted when the ball fell through the net. Rodriguez pumped his chest and stomped his feet after scoring. The moment was so surreal that he questioned if it had actually happened.
“At first, in the game it seemed like a couple of seconds, but it took me a bit to sink in: ‘Did I actually tip that in?’ Even though I knew I did it, it was just shocking. I told myself, ‘Yes you did…celebrate.’ I started going crazy,” Rodriguez said.
The Canes were up two, but there were still 1.4 seconds left for Pitt to attempt a final cross-court heave. The Canes played a prevent defense to prevent the Panthers from getting the ball into the frontcourt.
“Our objective was to not let them throw the ball the length of the court,” Larrañaga said.
The Panthers were able to get off a half-court shot, which fell short as time expired and the buzzer rang.
After the game, Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon felt he was robbed of a deserved victory.
“We felt like we should have won the game and we didn’t,” Dixon said.
In the end, the Canes’ victory may be rooted in dumb luck, but the ACC victory is still just as sweet.
“We needed a little bit of luck at the end and Angel Rodriguez provided it,” Larrañaga said.
The Canes next play Florida State at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday in Tallahassee, Fla.