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Miami Basketball Escapes with 75-71 Win Over NC Central

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UM advances to the second round of the NIT in game that was often too close for comfort.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The concern coming into tonight's NIT 1st Round match-up with NC Central, was that  UM would come out flat.

The disappointment of missing out on the NCAA Tournament, and playing in front of a sparse crowd at the Bank United Center, seemed like a potential recipe for disaster.

But the Hurricanes mustered up just enough poise, shot the ball pretty well, and were longer and stronger than North Carolina Central resulting in a  hard fought 75-71 win over a pesky opponent  at the Bank United Center.

The experimental 30 second shot clock being used in this NIT didn't bother UM early, as Angel Rodriguez who returned to the starting line-up for the first time in 5 games, got in the lane for a layup and found Sheldon McClellan for a lob and a quick 8 point lead.

Despite the good start, Coach Larranaga did a full shift change, bringing in 5 new players 6 minutes in.

Deandre Burnett and NCC's Anthony McDonald traded 3 pointers before Coach L went back to the starters 2 minutes later.

UM got plenty of good looks no matter who was in the game. They missed a few easy looks including a missed stuff by Tonye Jekiri, but controlled the first half nonetheless.

In fact if not for the hot shooting of the Eagles' Nimrod Hilliard (4-4, 3-3 on threes in the 1st 20) this might have been an easy night for the Hurricanes.

The lead went swelled to as much as 10 with 5 minutes to go, but NC Central switched to a 1-3-1 trapping zone and Miami went ice cold.

Manu Lecomte hit a three to end the drought though, and Davon Reed just beat the shot clock at the end of the possession with a finger roll and just 5 seconds left,  to send the 'Canes to a 34-25 halftime lead.

The biggest advantage was clearly Miami's size, and the predictably controlled the glass with Ivan Cruz Uceda chipping in with 5 first half rebounds.

In the second half,  NCC looked like a different squad in the opening mintes as Jordan Parks hit a couple of buckets to spark a 7-0 run. Parks took over for Hilliard as the thorn in the side of the 'Canes in the final 20.

Making matters worse, it appeared that Rodriguez re-aggravated his injured right wrist and left the game just a minute into the second stanza (he would return briefly later, but was also in foul trouble most of the night).

The sophomores Reed and Lecomte answered again though to stop the run and get the 'Canes off the snide with a bomb from each to stay out in front.

The lead could have been bigger, but Jekiri blew another bunny inside just before the first TV timeout.

They did manage to stretch it to 11 on 3 FTs by Lecomte, however Parks stole a rebound from Jekiri underneath and went up strong,  to keep Central within striking range.

For most of the second half, Miami threatened to blow the game open, but NC Central kept fighting back to keep it competitive,

A nifty and one by McClellan seemed to finally give UM some breathing room at 59-45 with 6 minutes to go.

But 5 quick points by Parks kept the pressure on.

A wave of 'Canes second half turnovers,  also made this game a lot more difficult then it had to be.

NCC cut it to 64-59 at the two minute mark, before Reed found Jekiri on the baseline for a monster dunk and the foul,  that the big man was able to keep down this time.

Parks was the best player on the floor though, and with under a minute to go his reverse lay in once again made things tense at 67-63.

Moments later the 6'7 senior would foul out.

His teammates picked him up and were aided by another sloppy UM turnover, this time by Lecomte who stepped on the baseline, to slash it to 2.

The 'Canes would make enough free throws to hold on though.  UM finished 23-25 from the charity stripe on the night.  They needed every last one.

Parks was the game's high scorer with 25.

Lecomte led Miami with 18, with McClellan chipping in 15.

Next Up;  Miami  faces the winner of the Illinois/Alabama contest,  Saturday at 11AM.

Consider it another opportunity to improve and build chemistry.