How Sweet it is! Miami survives Illini to advance to final 16.

Stephen Dunn

Hurricanes Hoops got all they could handle against a game Illinois squad.

Shane Larkin hit a huge shot down the stretch, and Rion Brown provided just enough offense as Miami just barely advanced with a 63-59 victory over Illinois in the NCAA Tournament.

The first half was a back and forth affair dictated by runs.

Miami got off to a quick start, taking a 7-2 lead at the first media time out behind some stingy D and nice moves by Shane Larkin and Julian Gamble at the rim. But Tyler Griffey caught fire, and behind a barrage of threes the Illini took an 18-16 lead at the ten minute mark.

Rion Brown nailed a triple of his own and UM retook the lead. Kenny Kadji scored in the post and hit a runner shortly after to extend to a 5 point advantage, and Illinois Coach John Groce called a TO.

Brandon Paul then got to the hoop on a nice hesitation, but Larkin nailed a bomb off the dribble then hit Brown for another three to make it 29-22 'Canes. Paul answered on a coast to coast move at the buzzer and the lead was just 29-26 at the half, as Miami missed some golden chances for a bigger lead.

Larkin led the way in the opening stanza with 8 points and 4 assists for the Hurricanes, while Griffey paced the Illini with 9, and Paul had 8 of his own.

The second half started out with frustration. Multiple point blank looks rimmed out for the 'Canes. Miami was also getting killed on the offensive glass, and they gave up the lead when Tracy Abrams dunked the ball on a blown defensive assignment.

Shane Larkin sparked a Miami resurgence run with a lay in, and Durand Scott got on the board with a sweet crossover that led to a one handed flush. Illinois answered again with a pair of free throws but Brown nailed two HUGE threes, first off a feed from Larkin, then off a feed from Scott to 46-39 with 8 minutes left.

Abrams scored right back, as UM was in a dog fight. Paul and Kadji went on personal 6 point runs albeit in completely different ways, and Abrams scored again on a scoop to know things up at 52 with 4 to go.

Another dunk by Paul was answered by a Scott tip in to keep things even at the 2 minute mark. The Illini hit a FT to take a brief lead but Sugar Shane responded.

Larkin hit a HUGE step back 3 to make it 57-55 at the minute and a half mark. UM caught a huge break on the next possession when Kadji appeared to knock the ball out of bounds but the call was Hurricanes ball. The Illini fouled off the inbounds and Scott canned 2 from the line to make it a 4 point game.

Once again Illinois sliced it 2, this time with 2 FTs of their own. They would just not go away.

However, Brown swished two from the charity stripe with under 10 seconds to go, to ice it.

Hurricanes Hoops survived and advanced to The Sweet 16 on a night they were clearly not at their best. If Miami is to advance even further, they will need a much more sound effort going forward. But tonight they can celebrate the team's first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000, and just their second trip there ever!

This game may not have had the dramatics of a Tyus Edney buzzer beater, but if UM goes on to do even greater things, this may be the hurdle cleared that is most remembered.

Player of the Game: Rion Brown saved Miami's hides tonight. They needed all 21 of his points tonight.

The Good: Winning on a night when they easily could have lost.

The Bad: Miami was terrible on the defensive glass, and had too many missed defensive assignments leading to Illini dunks.

The Ugly: Did we really have to listen to Tim Brando willing the Illini along on TNT? The comment about Miami not being used to Big 10 type contact was ridiculous.

Next Game:The 'Canes take on Marquette in the Sweet 16, Thursday in DC. Hold on to your hats!!

Illinois

Name FG 3Pt FT Off Reb Ast PF Pts
Tracy Abrams 3-10 0-2 2-3 1 3 2 2 8
Joseph Bertrand 2-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 0 2 4
Nnanna Egwu 5-9 0-0 2-2 7 12 0 0 12
Tyler Griffey 4-6 4-6 0-0 1 8 1 3 12
Sam McLaurin 0-2 0-0 0-0 2 5 0 1 0
Brandon Paul 8-20 2-9 0-0 1 4 1 4 18
D.J. Richardson 1-11 1-10 2-2 2 4 2 5 5
Totals 23-61 7-27 6-7 15 38 6 17 59
Percentages .377 .259 .857

Miami (FL) Hurricanes Miami (FL)

Name FG 3Pt FT Off Reb Ast PF Pts
Rion Brown 7-13 5-10 2-2 0 4 2 2 21
Julian Gamble 1-2 0-0 0-0 3 5 0 0 2
Tonye Jekiri 2-4 0-0 0-0 1 1 1 0 4
Reggie Johnson 0-1 0-0 0-0 3 5 1 2 0
Kenny Kadji 4-11 0-1 2-6 1 8 0 3 10
Shane Larkin 5-12 3-7 4-5 0 1 5 1 17
Trey McKinney Jones 1-3 1-3 0-0 1 3 0 0 3
Durand Scott 2-8 0-4 2-2 1 3 3 2 6
Totals 22-54 9-25 10-15 10 30 12 10 63
Percentages .407 .360 .667

Game Info

Technical Fouls:
None
Arena:
Frank Erwin Special Events Center, Austin, TX
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