March On! Miami Advances Past Buffalo, 79-72
14 – Buffalo72793 – Miami
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PROVIDENCE (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larranaga knows what it’s like to be the underdog team with something to prove in the NCAA Tournament.
So his final words to his team Thursday before its first-round matchup with Buffalo were all about expecting the unexpected from a scrappy mid-major. The Hurricanes took the message to heart.
Angel Rodriguez had 24 points and seven rebounds as third-seeded Miami held on to defeat No. 14 seed Buffalo 79-72 in the first round on Thursday.
Sheldon McClellan added 20 points and five rebounds. It is Miami’s first tournament win since it went to the Sweet 16 in 2013. The Hurricanes advance to play the winner of Arizona and Wichita State in the second round of the South Region on Saturday.
“There’s always a point in the game where (Rodriguez) feels like he’s got to score more, and when he does, and he takes advantage of his opportunities, then we have another weapon out there,” Larranaga said. “I thought Angel and Sheldon were senior leaders today that really dominated the game.”
Miami (26-7) kept the Bulls at bay for most of the second half, leading by as many as 12.
The Bulls (20-15) finally got some traction, closing within 72-68 on a jumper by Lamonte Bearden with less than two minutes to play. But Miami hit enough free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Buffalo tried to sag in on Miami’s big men in the second half, but were bitten several times when the Hurricanes were able to get the ball out to the perimeter for open 3s.
Then on the defensive end the Hurricanes protected the rim, allowing just five second-chance points for the Bulls, while blocking six shots.
“That’s the beauty of this team — we just need one little thing to get us going,” Rodriguez said. “And we found it on the defensive end.”
Nick Perkins had 20 points and six rebounds to lead Buffalo. Bearden added 19 points.
“I feel like we gave it all that we had and we just came up short,” said guard C.J. Massinburg. “Obviously next year we want to get back here.”
Miami trailed by 9 points about midway through the first half, before surging to take a 2-point halftime lead.
Oats promised his team would come out attacking, and it did, connecting on four of their first five from beyond the arc to take an early 12-6 lead.
But Miami pecked away the rest of the half and took a 35-33 lead into the locker room after Bearden’s layup at the buzzer was waved off.
“They played their tails off for us all year. We missed two open 3s that would have cut that thing to one possession late in the game,” Bulls coach Nate Oats said. “I think our kids proved they belong on a big stage like this.”
Miami: Hit 5 of its final 7 field goals. ..Outscored Buffalo 36-24 in the paint. …Went 26 of 34 from the free throw line. … Improves to 3-1 against Buffalo. …Improves to 7-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament.
Miami plays the winner of Arizona and Wichita State in the second round on Saturday.
-Miami’s victory over Buffalo moved the Hurricanes to 7-7 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
-Miami’s matchup with Buffalo marked its eighth all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
-Miami will face the winner of the Wichita State-Arizona matchup.
-With the win, Miami has won three of its last four NCAA Tournament games.
-The Hurricanes have won at least one game in each of their past three appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
-Miami’s win over Buffalo marked its first victory as a No. 3 seed.
-Miami improved to 3-1 all-time against Buffalo. The series dates back to 1993.
-The Hurricanes have not suffered back-to-back losses since their back-to-back losses to Virginia (Jan. 12) and Clemson (Jan. 16).
-The Hurricanes held a 35-33 lead at the half. Miami improved to 20-1 when leading at the half.
-Miami opened the second half with a 14-5 run to take a 49-38 lead with 13:33 to go.
-Miami never trailed during the second half of play.
-On an alley oop from Ja’Quan Newton to Davon Reed with 4:13 remaining in the first half, Miami took the lead, 27-25. It was Miami’s first lead since 2-0 at 19:18.
-Miami moved to 100-42 all-time as a ranked team. The Hurricanes also improved to 52-22 as a ranked team since joining the ACC.
-With the win, Jim Larrañaga now has a 587-390 overall record in his 32nd season as a head coach. He is 117-56 in his fifth season at the University of Miami.
-Larrañaga improved to 8-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. He also owns a 3-1 record since arriving at Miami.
-Larrañaga made his seventh career appearance in the NCAA Tournament and his second since arriving at Miami.
-Miami’s starters were Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy and Tonye Jekiri.
-Angel Rodriguez scored a game and season-high 24 points.
-Rodriguez scored 20+ points for the fifth time this season.
-Rodriguez has hit a 3-pointer in 11 straight games and has three-plus assists in 13 of the last 15 games.
-Sheldon McClellan has scored 10+ points in 21-straight games, dating back to Miami’s ACC opener against Syracuse (1/2/16). He has scored at least 10 points in 30 of Miami’s 33 games this season.
-McClellan scored 20+ points for the 13th time this season.
-Kamari Murphy has pulled down four-plus rebounds in 10 of the last 11 games. It was his fourth game of 10-plus rebounds on the season.
-Murphy set a new school record for blocks in an NCAA Tournament game with four. The previous record was 3, held by John Salmons (vs. Lafayette, 3/12/99) and Jimmy Graham (vs. Texas, 3/23/08).
-Murphy recorded his first double-double as a Hurricane. Murphy scored 10+ points for the sixth time this season and first time since 2/7/16 at Georgia Tech.
-Murphy tied a season-high with 11 points and tied a career-high with 13 rebounds.
-Davon Reed has hit a 3-pointer in 8 of his last 10 games and 10 of his last 12.
-Reed recorded a season-high in rebounds with 12.
-Reed scored 10+ points for the 10th time in his last 12 games.
-Ja’Quan Newton scored 10-plus points for the third straight game.
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I want to congratulate Buffalo and their basketball program for their outstanding season and the great competition that we had today with them. I asked my players after the game, have we ever played a team this season that had a 5 man that shot threes, and the answer was no. We didn’t face a 5 man that made threes. So we really knew that Perkins could make the three. We were hoping he would miss early on. He didn’t. That required then a lot of adjustments by us. The players made the adjustments and fought back, took the lead, and then never relinquished the lead in the second half and finished strong by making a ton of free throws.
Q. Angel, it seemed the first half was frustrating like Coach was saying with all the threes they were hitting, and you guys weren’t able to get going. There was a moment there where you had a block and then you were all chest bumping each other, and there seemed to be a real lift of energy at that point. Do you think that that was kind of a turning point, that moment there?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think, especially in March, where you play teams that you’ve never faced and probably you’ve never seen them on TV, it’s a challenge at first. As you could see, it was for us. But we just kept fighting and fighting and fighting, and it seems like that play gave the team a lot of energy. That’s the beauty of this team. We just need one little thing to get us going, and today we found it on the defensive end.
Q. Kamari, can you talk about your performance tonight, first double-double of the season in March coming at the biggest time? How big was that?
KAMARI MURPHY: I really wasn’t thinking about numbers during the game. I was just thinking about playing as hard as I can. We knew this team was talented, had a lot of match-up problems. So I knew if I came out and did my job and these guys did their job, we would get the W, and we did. Overall I’m happy. Now that I see the numbers, I’m happy with my performance, but it was all for the team.
Q. Sheldon, can you just talk about the fact that five guys in double figures, Angel had a season high, Kamari has his best game of the year. Just the fact that so many players played so well once you got to the tournament.
SHELDON MCCLELLAN: That’s one of the great things about this team. We can’t just lock in on me or Angel or Davon and Ja’Quan. We have a lot of guys on this team that can score. That’s why I really don’t put a lot of pressure on myself as far as being too much of an aggressor during the game. We have a lot of guys that can score on the team, so that’s the beauty of this team.
Q. Angel, when you guys are watching the games earlier and you see what happens with Duke and you see the Yale game and stuff like that, did you go into this game really being very aware that upsets can happen and that Buffalo could have definitely taken your heads off?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Yes, most definitely. Especially for myself, I’ve experienced one when I was at Kansas State. We were a high seed, and we played La Salle, disrespected them in a way that we didn’t really pay attention to the scouting report and did everything we shouldn’t do. I wanted to make sure that that didn’t happen to this team. I think we’ve had a great season, and we have an opportunity to do a lot of bigger things now in March. But overall everybody was focused and aware that anything can happen in the tournament.
Q. Angel, could you just talk about Bearden? Obviously you had a good day going up against him.
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Obviously I knew he was a great player. I saw him last year in the tournament, and I saw him this year, too, playing against high-level schools. So I’m not surprised whatsoever, and I thought he got the team going. Overall they all did a great job, so we’ve got to give them a lot of credit.
Q. Jim, you’ve been that mid-major team rising up to beat the power teams. Did you see something in that bubble team that almost scared you a little bit, like they’re not afraid?
JIM LARRANAGA: No, I thought they played with great confidence. I coached in the Mid-American Conference, so I was very aware of the kind of players that are recruited successfully who win at that level. And most of the time they’re undersized, but they’re very, very good. So for us, we play in the ACC where there’s a lot of bigger guys who play in around the basket, and you saw someone like Marshall Plumlee today who hangs around the rim. That’s the kind of guy, Tonye Jekiri is used to guarding. Now he’s out there guarding Perkins who’s nailing threes. That’s very, very different. Bearden is a heck of a point guard. Hamilton is a very crafty — what we would consider in our league a 3 man — but he plays the 4, so he’s a match-up problem for anybody. Trying to find the right adjustments to guard them, because they’re a very confident team. They’ve won 20 games, and they played great in their tournament, and actually shot threes better in their conference tournament than they have all year, so they came into this tournament really feeling good. Of course, when they started out the game making three threes, their first nine points were all on threes, that makes for even more confidence going forward.
But fortunately, I think our defense improved. Our match-ups got better, and our guys share the ball well. That’s why we ended up with five guys with double figures.
Q. How different is it to coach that game when you are the favorite expected to win?
JIM LARRANAGA: I think the underdog can play a little freer. They don’t feel the stress necessarily of a higher seed, but I’ve asked my team not to put pressure on themselves, to enjoy this. You don’t get a chance to do this that often. If you look at my team, we have four guys who played in the NCAA Tournament, eight guys who never did, so it’s an exciting time in their lives, and they want to enjoy it as much as possible. You don’t enjoy it when you’re putting stress on yourself. We’ve tried to make practice enjoyable. The guys have been smiling a lot and laughing a lot. That’s a good sign. And we were in very good spirits today when we came over and shot.
Q. Could you just talk about Angel’s performance today and just how —
JIM LARRANAGA: He was just sensational. Angel Rodriguez is one of those guys who loves the competition. He really delivers the ball to his teammates very, very well. But then there’s always a point in the game where he feels like he’s got to score more, and when he does, and he takes advantage of his opportunities, then we have another weapon out there.
Kamari was another weapon today. He had to play the 5 most of the game, but with that opportunity, he plays closer to the basket and is able to get opportunities that Angel normally creates or Sheldon creates.
But I thought Angel and Sheldon were senior leaders today that really dominated the game.
Q. How important is it that you can have so many guys come up big in a tournament like this where it’s just one-and-done?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I’ve told the players over and over again, when you get to the NCAA Tournament, if you want to advance, you can’t just play good, you have to play great. You’ve got to find different ways to win the game. Primarily you have to play great defense. You have to rebound the ball very well. We won the rebound battle today by double figures. And you’ve got to share the ball and find the open man, which we did.
I thought one of the key baskets was Davon Reed’s three when we threw the ball inside. I can’t remember if it was Kamari or Angel that threw it out to him, but it was at a critical time. I think we were up four and that got it to seven. Eventually we got it up to 12. Angel made a three, then Davon made a three. When your team starts to go on a roll, it really builds confidence right during the game.
Q. Can you talk about — we don’t know who’s going to win the next game, but can you talk about each of them as an opponent, Arizona and Wichita State?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, my response is really this: Sean Miller is a coach that’s headed towards the Hall of Fame. He’s had an incredible career in his young coaching career, and his teams are always well-disciplined. They play very, very hard defensively, and they’re a very, very strong offensive team.
On the other hand, Gregg Marshall has done what — I don’t know anybody at the mid-major level that’s done it any better. And his team is right now No. 1 in Ken Pom in defensive efficiency. So they make it really, really hard on you to score. They’ve got those two great guards, Fred VanVleet and Baker, who give them a chance in every game. At this time of year, as you saw today with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, guards really control the game, and those two guards from Wichita State always give them a chance.