Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Miami's quest to stay unbeaten in the ACC ran through Littlejohn Coliseum and the Clemson Tigers. Miami stayed on path. The path was more like a muddy tract of land littered with mines, but a win is a win . . .
After not being able to get into the flow at FSU last game, Kenny Kadji got off to a hot start early in the first half, converting a dunk and a 3-point play on a tough post move. Those two scoring plays accounted for 50% of Miami's offense over the first 14 minutes of the game until Erik Swoope grabbed a Shane Larkin miss and scored.
The 'Canes and Tigers wore out the rims and backboards. The audible clank of the rim reached an almost metronomic tone early on. Nothing was falling. Shots that looked like they were going to fall seemed to defy gravity and reverse course. There were air-balls, off-balance heaves, and slopitization of the first order.
With about 3 minutes left in the 1st half, and Clemson clinging to a 15-14 lead, Trey McKinney-Jones grabbed an offensive rebound and found Julian Gamble for a two-handed stuff. Just when it looked like the 'Canes were poised to make a half-ending run, another turnover stopped the momentum and the 'Canes limped into the locker room with a slim 18-16 lead.
Miami has been a 2nd-half team for much of the season. Aside from a few high-profile 1st-half virtuoso performances (home against Duke, UNC, and FSU), the 'Canes have often relied on making adjustments. Early on that trend seemed to be in doubt. Clemson scored the first three buckets of the 2nd frame and took a 23-18 lead. Miami, for the first time since the Diamond Head Classic, looked a bit rattled.
Sometimes, all it takes is one basket to start to turn the tide. This is especially true in a close game where points are at a premium. Kadji scored on a contested runner and followed it up with another bucket on a strong post move through a lot of uncalled contact. TMJ then hit a soft runner in the lane which gave the 'Canes the narrowest of leads.
The game see-sawed back and forth like the Pod Racer scene in Star Wars; The Phantom Menace
Give Clemson credit, they were able to keep it close and with just 6 minutes left, Jordan Roper hit another big shot to give Clemson a 38-35 lead. After a much needed time out, Miami again looked flustered on offense. After a few frantic possessions, Shane Larkin drained a three-ball to tie the score at 38.
With just over a minute left, Rion Brown nailed a big-time runner and converted the free-throw. Just as the stream I was watching the game on somehow fizzed to European soccer (I shit you not) Kadji hit a big three to give the 'Canes a 1 point lead with 30 seconds left. Then, TMJ drew a charge giving Miami possession with 13 seconds left. With 8.6 seconds left, TMJ was fouled and went to the line for a big 1-and-1 try. He got the roll on the first and missed the second. Down 2 with time running out, Rod Hall elected to try and tie to game up with a drive to the rack rather than attempt a game-winning 3. His shot was off and Miami snagged the victory.
Player of the Game: Miami pulled off another fantastic finish in knocking off Clemson.Great job by all gritting out a win on the road.
The Good: A win is a win is a win is a win. This is both profoundly elegant and profoundly simple.
The Bad: The entire 1st half. The shooting was awful for both teams, but for Miami it was the worst 1st-half offensive performance the #3 'Canes have had this season. The 'Canes were 7-27 from the field and 1-10 from beyond the arc in the 1st frame. Clemson was even worse: 7-30 from the field and 1-11 from deep.
The Ugly: In all fairness, the 2nd half wasn't much better to watch than the first. This is the kind of game - as a fan - you're overjoyed to win and would be completely despondent if the result went the other way.
Next Game: The 'Canes return home to take on Virginia on Tuesday, Feb. 19 @9pm. Pack the BUC!
|Miami (FL) Hurricanes|
|Kenny Kadji, F-C||5-11||1-6||1-1||0||4||0||0||0||1||1||12|
|Julian Gamble, F-C||4-8||0-0||0-0||3||8||0||0||3||1||4||8|
|Shane Larkin, G||2-8||1-5||2-2||0||5||3||2||0||3||1||7|
|Trey McKinney Jones, G||2-5||1-3||1-2||1||3||1||0||0||3||1||6|
|Durand Scott, G||1-8||0-3||1-1||2||11||2||0||0||2||3||3|
|Rion Brown, G||2-6||0-2||1-1||1||2||0||1||0||1||3||5|
|Reggie Johnson, C||1-4||0-0||0-0||0||3||1||1||0||2||1||2|
|Erik Swoope, F||1-2||0-0||0-0||2||3||0||0||0||0||0||2|
|Tonye Jekiri, C||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Jordan Roper, G||8-11||3-4||0-0||0||1||0||4||0||0||3||19|
|Devin Booker, F-C||4-13||0-1||3-8||5||10||0||1||1||0||1||11|
|Milton Jennings, F||2-12||0-7||1-2||2||6||4||1||2||1||4||5|
|K.J. McDaniels, F||1-11||0-2||1-3||4||9||1||2||1||2||1||3|
|Rod Hall, G||1-5||0-0||0-0||1||5||2||1||0||2||3||2|
|Adonis Filer, G||1-2||1-2||0-0||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||3|
|Damarcus Harrison, G||0-1||0-1||0-0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Landry Nnoko, C||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||2||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Smith, F||0-1||0-0||0-0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|