Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Hot Start Propels Miami in 68-50 Road Victory Over Notre Dame

Mar 2, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Angel Rodriguez (13) signals to his teammates in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Angel Rodriguez (13) signals to his teammates in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /
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Before this season, they said Miami couldn’t break into the Top 25. They then said the Hurricanes wouldn’t be able to compete at the top of the ACC and then that they couldn’t win on the road.

As questions arise for this experienced Miami Hurricanes team, all they do is answer them.

Propelled by a 21-3 start from the opening tip, the Canes held Notre Dame at arm’s length for 40 minutes and picked up a crucial 68-50 road victory over the Fighting Irish.

Coming into the penultimate game of the season, Miami’s resume was impressive, but lacked one thing, a quality road win. Judging from their start, it was quite obvious they knew just that.

The Canes came out red-hot hitting five of their first six shots and at the same time held Notre Dame to an 0-for-6 start from the field. With a 12-0 lead after just 3:20, Coach Jim Larranaga’s team just kept on building the lead. Rex Pflueger finally got the Fighting Irish on the board 5:32 in, but the Hurricanes were able to extend the gap to 21-3 just about eight minutes into the game.

Notre Dame made a run over the next ten minutes to cut the enormous Miami lead to just seven, but that’s the closest they got.

Miami’s seniors who were so impressive against Louisville dazzled once again in South Bend as Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Tonye Jekiri showed why veteran leadership is so valuable in college basketball. The trio combined for 28 of the Hurricanes 33 second half points and weren’t rattled in an arena in which Notre Dame had lost just one game all season.

On the defensive end, the Canes held sharpshooter Steve Vasturia without a field goal and limited star point guard Demetrius Jackson to just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. It was a victory that once again showed this Miami team can beat anyone not just at the cozy confines BankUnited Center, but anywhere in the country. Now with just one game remaining, the Canes only need a victory at Virginia Tech to at least grab a share of the ACC Regular Season title.

A big reason for that is Angel Rodriguez. The redshirt senior finished with 19 points to lead all scorers and was poised when the Canes needed him most. Towards the beginning of the ACC schedule, we heard a lot of fans call for the removal of Rodriguez from the starting lineup in favor of rising star Ja’Quan Newton. At the time, I said you had to let him try and work out of the slump because of the potential that he brings to this team. After an excellent second half against Boston College I thought that might turn his season around and the evidence from his play of late has shown exactly that.

Sheldon McClellan looked more like himself with 17 points and Tonye Jekiri played one of his best games of the season dominating the interior with 14 points and nine rebounds, six of which were offensive. With this senior trio starting to dominate at the end of games, the team as a whole is playing their best basketball at the best time of the season. Remember, the Canes dominated Notre Dame wire-to-wire and didn’t have perhaps the ACC Sixth Man of the Year Award winner in Ja’Quan Newton.

No matter how many wins Miami has piled up and no matter how many times they’ve been questioned, they’ve always answered the bell. With the way this team is playing, I wouldn’t want to question them any longer.