If the Utah Utes are the #16 team in the country, how high should Miami be ranked?
Led by two of their many stars, UM jumped out to an early lead and finished strong in a statement win over one of the favorites in the PAC-12 conference.
Sheldon McClellan drilled jumpers, slashed to the hoop, and got on the break on his way to 27 superstar like points, and Tonye Jekiri dominated the inside to the tune of 20 points and 12 rebounds against a very good counterpart, to spark the win.
The 'Canes got off to a fast start with Angel Rodriguez scoring their first 5, and McClellan getting to the bucket for a quick 7-0 lead.
A pair of triples by the Utes seemed to settle them down though.
However as they have consistently done through out the very young season, UM responded.
Jekiri abused Utah star Jakob Poeltl on the baseline for an and one to extend the lead.
Then Kamari Murphy got his first bucket as a Hurricane a few possessions later on a broken play.
UM's defense was stellar and swarming early on and they made 8 of their first 12 shots for a 21-12 advantage,
All of the Utes first 5 FG's were threes, which kept them in it. But they struggled inside the arc and even had two shot clock violations.
Miami on the other hand was getting point blank looks, with Jekiri both scoring and getting Poeltl and the other Utah bigs in foul trouble.
In the battle of heralded big men, it was all TJ in the first 20 minutes. Jekiri had 14 points in the first stanza to lead UM, who led 46-32 after one half.
Jordan Loveridge paced Utah with 10. And his late three actually temporarily cut the lead to single digits.
But Rodriguez had a steal and finish and James Palmer nailed a triple to once again seize control.
In the second half Poeltl got going, but so did McClellan.
The teams traded buckets in the first 5 minutes, and lead pretty much stuck at a dozen.
The Utes were scrappy no doubt. However the Hurricanes looked like the better team and answered every Utah mini run.
Mild mannered Coach Larry Kryskowiak was even called for a T when he argued a call as vehemently as you'd expect from that other Coach K in Durham.
It actually sparked his team, and along with Miami's offense getting stagnant for a bit, made things more competitive.
Poeltl showed very soft hands and was opportunistic on the offensive glass. He's a very talented center, and it was on display in the final 20.
But Jekiri and McClellan kept making huge plays for the Hurricanes.
With NBA scouts in the crowd, UM's likely two best prospects for the league did nothing to hurt their reputations.
More importantly, they made sure the skyrocketing stock of the Hurricanes continued to trend up.
Miami has yet to really be challenged this season, and have the look of a special team having a special season.
If they can close out this Tournament with another win, there is no telling how high they might be ranked.
Next Up: Another ranked opponent, Butler.
The Final from Puerto Rico is Sunday evening at 7:30 EST.