Wow! For the first 30 minutes, this "Keys to the Game" was going to be a lot different. Luckily, I had to redo everything after the final 10 minutes. Here is what led to Miami's great turn around and comeback to put them in the NIT Semifinals for the first time in school history.
Avoided Frustration - It did not seem that would be the case 30 minutes into the game. Players were pointing at each other and were showing their displeasure with the referees. There were many reasons for the Canes to lose their composure from missed shots, referee calls, turn overs, defensive mistakes, early bonus for Richmond, and not taking a free throw in first the 25 minutes. This could have decided the game for Miami, but the team found a way to move on. That starts from the top with Jim Larranaga and his coaching staff. It also helped he found a spark from the bench.
Joe Thomas - He ignited everything the Canes needed for a comeback. He was an energy maker, led the press, pulled in offensive rebounds, and created 2nd Chance points for himself and others. Every Miami fan was screaming at their television "WHY DID WE KEEP JOE THOMAS ON THE BENCH ALL YEAR?!" I ask all not be prisoners of the moment but enjoy when this anomaly happens. There is usually a reason why a player has not been seen much time. Example is Spike Albrecht in the National Title two years ago when he had a great first half. Many Michigan fans and the country wondered where he was all season. Once he came back to earth, everyone remembered he was not better than Trey Burke and the nation has not heard from Spike since. All that being said, it was a great move by Larranaga to put a motivated senior in to ignite this team. If Thomas enters the rotation at MSG, the Canes need him to bring the same energy.
Days Off - Miami benefited from having the extra days of rest. Even early Richmond was by no means lighting up the gym; the Canes were just playing that poorly. This kept Miami in striking range all game. The hard, physical, and over-time game against Arizona State with only one day of rest finally caught up to the Spiders. Richmond had open looks late but their heavy legs kept altering shots. With fresh legs (and remember the Canes played at 11:00 a.m. Saturday) they were able to stay in a press, wear down Richmond, and finished on their late shots.
Kept it Simple (With a Wrinkle) - Miami figured out the formula to beat Richmond before this game started. It was clear from the beginning the Canes thought they could win inside with size and height. The first two possessions went to Tonye Jekiri and Ivan Cruz Uceda down low. The Canes kept trying to get Jekiri going down in the post, but he continued to miss easy lay-ins. Instead of bailing on the game plan, the Canes found a different attack to get the result they wanted with a steady dose of drives to the hoop by Ja'Quan Newton, Sheldon McClellan, and Davon Reed. Even after his big three, McClellan went back to what was working and made the go-ahead bucket with a drive and lay-in.
Individual Notes (Courtesy UM)
-With 16 points against the Spiders, Sheldon McClellan has score in double digits in 28 games this season.
-With 12 rebounds at Richmond, Tonye Jekiri has grabbed 10+ rebounds in 21 outings.
-Tonye Jekiri’s 10 points and 12 rebounds mark his 12th double-double of the year.
-With his 12 rebounds against Richmond, Tonye Jekiri’s 366 boards are fourth all-time in Miami’s record book for rebounds in a season. He trails No. 1 Rick Barry (475), No. 2 Rick Barry (448) and No. 3 Harry Manushaw (372).
-Joe Thomas’ seven points are a career-high at Miami.
Next up Miami will face the winner of tomorrow night's tussle between Temple Vs Lousiana Tech.
The semifinal game will be played 3/31 at MSG, at either 7 or 9 PM.