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Miami Basketball Defeats Florida State 81-77, behind Rodriguez, McClellan, Reed

UM's season of tumult continues. Tonight they won with a balanced effort, despite a ridiculous one man assault by the opponent.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake about it.   Tonight's game was critical.

The Hurricanes started the night on the dreaded   "last 4 out"  list of most experts' brackets.

Where they stand now is anyone's guess.

Bit if they continue to get the kind of performances from their "Big Three + Jekiri" as they did tonight, they should play their way right into March Madness.

Led by their two talented wings, a redeeming performance by their PG, and the usual tough inside presence of their 7 footer, Miami controlled FSU in the 2nd half en route to a victory.

They had to survive an incredible scoring display from sensational Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes would score a remarkable 26 in a row for his team in the closing minutes to make this one too close for comfort for UM.

Early on it was like The Guns of Navarone, as both teams relentlessly attacked each others' defenses.

The 'Canes held a one point lead at the first TV timeout behind much maligned PG Angel Rodriguez, who was looking to put a half season long shooting slump behind him, and knocked down his first two shots.

Once again, the UM captain was not shy with the ball.  But tonight he was effective.

Montay Brandon, who went for 18 points on 7-7 from the floor the first two times these teams met, also booked his first two shots from the floor for FSU, who looked repeatedly to slash to the bucket..

The Noles would eventually sneak ahead, aided in part by a dubious technical foul that was called on Sheldon McClellan for hanging on the rim after a missed dunk attempt (it appeared there was a lot of traffic under him).

Davon Reed got going though, and a three and a pair of free throws by the Miami sophomore put UM back in front, 23-20.

This sparked a run that would lead to a 7 point 'Canes advantage, but FSU answered right back with a three by Jarquez Smith to keep things tight.

Neither team could quite grasp a big advantage over the other in a back and forth first 20.

And at the half, the Hurricanes held a 29-25 lead.

The story this far,  was the good play  Rodriguez, who  scored 10 points on 4-8 shooting, despite going 0-3 from deep.

UM was 1-10 on triples as team in the first half.

Tonye Jekiri also was his usual reliable self with 6 points and 6 rebounds in the opening stanza for UM.

The second half would be far less suspenseful through 16 minutes, but ended with a bang.

Early on FSU quickly did square things up behind Brandon who got to the hoop twice in a row.

The 6'7 junior from Greensboro was a tough guard all night long, again.

But Rodriguez got to the point to retake the lead, and one play later found McClellan for an open triple to give Miami a 6 point advantage.

Angel really focused on getting into the lane, and the result was one of his most efficient performances by far, in a long, long while.

The lead would swell to double digits behind a three by Reed and a pair of FTs by McClellan.

UM's wings seemed intent on matching the intensity and production of Brandon.

The epitome of which was a sequence where Brandon would pick UM's pocket, and head down court with what looked like a lay up opportunity.  McClellan chased him down, stole the ball from behind, and finished on a coast to coast drive to make it 55-42 'Canes.

This intensity, combined with Rodriguez heady play, appeared to be too much for the Seminoles.

The near capacity, boisterous crowd at the BUC exploded when Miami jumped ahead by as many as 15.

And the rout was on.... Or was it?

XRM went wild over the final four minutes.  Scoring in a manner seldom scene in the history of the ACC, he brought the Noles back in it single-handed.

But Rodriguez and Jekiri hit just enough clutch FTs for Miami to hold on, in a game that absolutely had to have.

Rathan-Mayes would finish with 35.

Rodriguez led UM with 25 points and 5 assists.

McClellan had 19 with Reed contributing18.

Jekiri had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Next up, Miami hosts UNC (Saturday 2 PM) in their last home game of the year.

If the Hurricanes want to dance come March, that will be one they would love to have.