Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Season Comes to an End as Miami Falls 92-69 in Sweet 16 to Red-Hot Villanova

Mar 24, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja
Mar 24, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja /

The Miami Hurricanes finished 27-8 and reinvigorated a program. They advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the third time in program history and sold out the BankUnited Center for every game this season. No, the 2016 NCAA Tournament didn’t end the way the Canes wanted it to, but boy it was a fun ride.

While Miami had a tremendous shooting night of their own, the red-hot Villanova Wildcats were even better as they handed the Canes a 92-69 Sweet 16 loss to end what was a phenomenal and historic season.

“Normally, if I look at a stat sheet and we’ve shot 53 percent from the field, 58 percent from three, I think we probably won the game. But you look at their stats, 62 percent from the field, 66 percent from three, and 95 percent from the foul line, they’re just an incredible offensive team,” Jim Larranaga said after the game.

“We had no way to stop them. We couldn’t put any defensive stops together, and the credit goes to Jay and the game plan they had and the way they’ve played throughout the season.”

Coming into the game, the main concern for the Canes was the scorching three-point shooters of the Wildcats and right out of the gate, that issue was front and center. Villanova hit two three-pointers in the first 3:02 and jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. While Miami began to battle back, they could find no answer for senior Ryan Arcidiacono. The 6’4” guard from Langhorne, Pa. looked like Angel Rodriguez did early on against Wichita State as he poured it in from all over the court. After an and-one on a questionable foul call against Sheldon McClellan, Arcidiacono had 13 points and the Wildcats were dominating with a 24-10 lead after just ten minutes.

The Hurricanes once again began to inch back over the next few minutes, but still Villanova held them at arms’ length with a 29-14 lead. Then for the final time it was that dynamic duo that brought the Canes back in the game. Over the next three minutes, Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez traded off four consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to 29-26 in the blink of an eye. With the Miami faithful roaring in approval and the Hurricanes finally with a foothold in the game, they were able to head to the half with a deficit of just six as Villanova led 43-37.

Out of the break, the Canes kept it tight for a few minutes, but the hot shooting and intensity of the Wildcats was just too much for Miami to handle. While the two teams shot at a similar clip, Villanova got to the line in what seemed like every other possession and also beat the Hurricanes to almost every 50-50 ball. With those extra opportunities, the Canes just could not hang.

“They shot great percentages and we did too, but I feel like at the end of the day they outplayed us. Every loose ball, they got to it first. They got off to a great start and we seemed to make a comeback, but overall they just outplayed us,” Angel Rodriguez said after the team’s tough loss.

“At this point in the season, I think whoever wants it more is going to win because everybody’s very, very talented and basically at the same level. But they wanted it more I guess, because they outplayed us.”

The rest of the way, the Wildcats did look like the more desperate team as they went 13-of-14 from the line, grabbed six offensive rebounds and hit another four three-pointers to pull away from the Hurricanes midway through the second half. As the result neared closer and closer to its inevitability, the attention turned towards the Miami seniors who gave so much to the program and made the Hurricanes into not just a one-year wonder, but a team here to stay.

Tonye Jekiri fouled out in what was yet another frustrating game for the big man, but you can only be impressed by the improvements the seven-footer has made in his game over the last four years. He came in as a lanky freshman with little to no basketball sense and will leave as a physical senior who can realize his tremendous ceiling the next few years.

As the clock ticked down, both Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan were subbed out to end what have to be two of the best careers in Miami basketball history. While they were only here for two years on the court, they brought the Canes to their first NIT Final and to the program’s third Sweet 16 appearance. It did not end the way they wanted as they helplessly watched the clock hit zero, but there was not much more you could have wanted these guys to do.

“Well, for the last three years, they’ve given me the greatest pleasure as a coach that you could possibly ask from a player,” Larranaga said of Rodriguez and McClellan. “They work very, very hard every day in practice. They’ve already graduated and they were terrific students and are very skilled offensive players.”

That skill was not enough tonight as Villanova played an almost perfect game. While they dominated Miami 92-69, the Wildcats also could have probably beaten almost any team in the country the way they played.

This loss is one that certainly stings, but for a team like Miami you have to put things in perspective. This was a team who was picked to finish fifth in the ACC and wasn’t on the radar at all nationally to begin the year. They overcame all the doubters and all the predictions to be one of the last 16 teams standing in college basketball and that is something you cannot take for granted.

Look at all the 2015-2016 Miami Hurricanes accomplished. Sure, it did not end the way the players or coaching staff or fans wanted it, but it was certainly one hell of a ride.