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McClellan, Thomas Spark Amazing Comeback as Miami Basketball Defeats Richmond 63-61 to Reach NIT Semifinals

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When all seemed lost, the 'Canes dug deep for a big win to head to NYC.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

On Selection Sunday, both Miami and Richmond felt they had solid arguments to be included in the field of 68.

Only one team will continue to make its' case next week at Madison Square Garden.

Early on it appeared as though the Spiders wanted it much more.

But a furious second half rally sparked by graduate transfer Joe Thomas and star wing Sheldon McClellan earned the Hurricanes a trip to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals with a 63-61 win over Richmond.

T.J. Kline canned two threes to get the Spiders going early as it was all Richmond in the opening minutes.

Meanwhile UM just couldn't get anything to fall and started the game ice cold, going just 1-10 from the floor over the first 8 minutes.

Before you knew it, it was 13-2 Spiders.

Miami's lone bucket in the stretch was a basket by Tonye Jekiri in the post.  Inexplicably they did not go back to him very often.

When they did, he could not convert.

The 'Canes were getting beat in every facet of the game in the first half, even the glass, against a smaller Richmond squad.

Terry Allen's offensive put back over both McClellan and Ivan Cruz Uceda extended the lead to 19-8.

Davon Reed tried to spark the Hurricanes but missed a one-handed dunk attempt. On the subsequent possession Allen fell on the floor with no contact whatsoever but a foul was called anyway.

It was that kind of first half.

And while the zebras were doing UM no favors, the 'Canes mostly had themselves to blame for an atrocious first half offensively, in which they largely eschewed team play for one on one takes.

An awful final possession by the 'Canes that ended in a long miss by Deandre Burnett was compounded by terrible transition defense and an Allen bucket at the rim just before the buzzer.

After 20 minutes it was 30-18 Spiders,  though it felt much worse.

Miami was 9-30 from the floor in the first stanza, did not make any of their 8 three point attempts, and did not get to the charity stripe.

The second half began disastrously as well.

Manu Lecomte pulled up for a long 2 that missed, with out so much as an attempt to swing the ball. .  You could feel Jim Larranaga's frustration as he pulled the Belgian PG from the game.

Kline would hit a three on the other end, and Coach needed a TO ASAP.

The night just kept getting worse and worse.

The Hurricanes executed a perfect pick and roll to get Jekiri right at the rim, but he bricked the finger roll.

One possession later JaQuan Newton was obliterated from behind by two Richmond defenders in the clearest definition of a foul you will ever see.

Amazingly there was no call.

Even the ESPN commentators were commenting on how impressed they were with Larranaga's composure during a  sequence where the 'Canes appeared to get mugged on one end and called for a touch foul on the other.

The game and the season appeared to be doomed.

What happened next was a comeback for the ages.

UM responded well, and went full court press resulting in a few nice plays to keep within shouting distance. Included in the run was a few big buckets and some inspired play from the seldom used F Thomas.

Time and time again Reed and the guards took the ball to the hoop to score, get an offensive rebound, or get fouled.

They seemed to finally find some momentum.

By attacking the glass and the basket as well as playing some serious high energy defense, Miami would incredibly cut what had been as much as an 18 point lead, down to 51-46 with 5 minutes to go.

The 'Canes had clearly found something.

3 minutes later, McClellan drilled a rhythm 3 to tie things up at 55.

With a minute remaining the Texas transfer put Miami on top with a tough 7 footer off the dribble in the lane.

The comeback was complete.

Kline got a wide open look a moment later that would have put Richmond back on top but he missed.

From there UM used some cool and clutch free throw shooting to finish the deal.

Richmond almost pulled off the miracle down 4 with 5 seconds to go as Kendall Anthony was fouled on a triple. But it did not fall.

Much like the Hurricanes season, this one was a roller coaster all the way to end.

But it ended on a positive note.

With Miami heading to the Big Apple and the NIT's version of the Final Four, they can only hope the remainder of their season follows suit.

One thing is for sure, it will definitely be interesting.