Senior guards step up, No. 11 Miami beats Virginia Tech
WASHINGTON (AP) — Miami coach Jim Larranaga is a firm believer that the best teacher is experience. Angel Rodriguez had to experience the pressure of what he thought was his final ACC game for it to click.
With just two points at halftime, Rodriguez was so motivated by his fear of the end that he took control of the game. The senior guard scored 11 straight points at a crucial juncture of the second half and the 11th-ranked Hurricanes beat Virginia Tech 88-82 on Thursday night in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Rodriguez finished with 21 points and he and fellow senior Sheldon McClellan combined for 31 in the second half to get Miami (25-6) into the semifinals, where it’ll face fourth-ranked Virginia.
“Angel and Sheldon, these guys have been just tremendous,” Larranaga said. “They come with a lot of enthusiasm and energy and execution, and tonight when Angel sees his opportunities, he’s going to take advantage of them. Sheldon the same way.”
McClellan scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers, as the Hurricanes put a 15-point loss to the Hokies (19-14) on Saturday in the rearview mirror. Tensions were high in the teams’ second meeting in six days, with a combined 43 fouls and a handful of shouting matches.
“There was some jawing going on,” said Virginia Tech leading scorer Zach LeDay, who sat on the bench for long stretches because of foul trouble and coach Buzz Williams’ decisions. “But it was just all in the heat of the game.”
LeDay was held to 12 points in 23 minutes, while Seth Allen led Virginia Tech with a season-high 31. Allen made 17 of his 18 free throw attempts.
The fact Virginia Tech went to the line so much was a major concern to Larranaga, who said his veteran team has learned the importance of not fouling.
“Some of these guys are going to be doing wind sprints tomorrow at practice to remind them not to foul,” Larranaga said.
Miami was winded at times against the quick Hokies, but hot shooting allowed the Hurricanes to take over. Rodriguez was unstoppable in connecting on 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions and then stealing the ball from Justin Biggs for a layup.
“I had the open shots,” Rodriguez said. “I made the first one, and I’m a confident player. I was just taking what they were giving me.”
Virginia Tech didn’t have any answers down low for Tonye Jekiri, one of five Miami players in double figures, and then couldn’t figure out how to stop outside shots. The Hurricanes shot 56.6 percent from the floor.
“We tried a little bit of everything, I guess, in different parts,” Williams said. “Sometimes it would work for consecutive possessions but not very often. We ran the gamut of all the different defenses that we could.”
Nothing worked, and Miami can now turn its focus to Virginia. All four top seeds won, with No. 7 North Carolina and defending tournament champion Notre Dame advancing to the other semifinal.
“It’s going to be a fun game to play and a fun game to watch,” Rodriguez said. “Two good teams going at it.”
LeDay, held scoreless in the first half after getting into foul trouble, sat for more than 6 minutes during one stretch in the second half. He said he wasn’t hurt.
“I just go along with whatever Coach says,” LeDay said. “I was ready to play. I was ready to give it my all. It was just up to Coach.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies’ streak of eight consecutive conference victories that snapped was their longest since 1964-65 when they played in the Southern Conference. ... Justin Robinson, who had scored in double figures in seven of eight games, finished with nine and fouled out. ... Allen’s 31 points were his most at Virginia Tech. He scored 32 for Maryland against Florida State on Feb. 8, 2014.
Miami: Backup point guard Ja’Quan Newton scored 10 points in his return from a three-game suspension for violating team rules. ... Larranaga returned to Verizon Center, where he advanced to the Final Four with George Mason in 2006. With Miami, Larranaga lost in the Sweet 16 loss to Marquette in the building.
Miami: Faces fourth-ranked Virginia in the semifinals Friday.