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Miami Basketball set for Big Challenge in the Big Apple Vs Temple

The 'Canes are just one win away from the NIT Championship Game.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Head Coach Jim Larranaga joked with the media on Friday that his team's trip to New York City was going to be "very expensive"  referencing the large number of friends and family from his hometown of the Bronx asking for tickets to the NIT semifinals.

But make no mistake about it Coach L, happy as he may be, is very focused on getting his team to the winner's circle at Madison Square Garden.

"This is a business trip, this is trying to win a championship"  Larranaga noted.

But as his nature, he did not overlook the joy of the game for too long,

"We want the players to have fun, we want them to enjoy this."

Indeed, this year's NIT has been a nice mix for the Hurricanes of winning, building team continuity, and fun.

The first 30 minutes of last Tuesday's game at Richmond were not very promising in any of the above.

But UM stormed back from an 18 point second half deficit for a season defining and hard fought 63-61 win.

It was the kind of victory that a team returning all but 1 contributor next year from this season's squad, can hang its' hat on in future tournaments (Big Dance 2016 perhaps).

"I think we are playing with the best attitude (all season) and that is huge,"  added Larranaga.

To win a Tournament like the NIT, sometimes you have to win when you aren't at your best.

It was not lost on Coach L.

"We shot 38% from the floor and 23% from three, and we won. How do you do that?"

Against Temple the Hurricanes hope they do not have to repeat the feat.

The Owls are also playing their best ball of the season.  They have won 7 of 8 and are beating opponents by an average of 12 plus a contest in the NIT.

Like UM, they are a guard heavy attack.

They average just 10 turnovers a game.  And while they only shoot just over 30% from deep on the season, they make the ones they need.

6'2 senior Will Cummings paces Temple with 14.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 4.2 apg.

6'5 Quentin DeCosey and 6'5 Jesse Morgan are a pair of hard nosed players off the ball, each averaging over 12 a game,  who love penetrating and getting to the hoop.

6'7 Jaylen Bond is the team's leader in rebounds at 8 a contest, and like his back court teammates is tough as nails.

The Hurricanes are going to need to match Temple in effort and intensity to make it to the Championship game on Thursday against the winner of Stanford/Old Dominion.

"This game on Tuesday Night is going to be a war. Their guards are absolutely terrific. Fran Dunphy is a very experienced coach,"    Larranaga observed.  "Because they don't make a lot of mistakes. they are always in the game.  It should be a real battle."

If Miami finds a way to win yet again, it would be another impressive notch on their belts.

Temple is indeed a quality NCAA Tournament worthy team. Ditto the winner of the Stanford Vs Old Dominion.

2 more hard fought wins and UM can also hang a banner in the Bank United Center.

More importantly though, they are potentially preparing for something bigger. Something more long term.

As the song goes, if they can make it in NYC, they can make it anywhere.....

And it all starts with attitude.

Notes:

Larranaga also mentioned that Angel Rodriguez did not practice on Friday, so do not look for him much if at all on the floor come Tuesday Night.

Manu Lecomte (knee) and JaQuan Newton (thumb) are expected to be ready.

Coach L talks going home to NYC, Temple, & More: