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One Win Away: Miami Basketball Shows Grit, Defeats Temple 60-57 to Advance to the NIT Championship

Things looked bleak at times, but the Hurricanes refused to fold in a heroic effort from MSG.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Leading up to tonight's NIT semifinal between Miami and Temple, much was made about Hurricanes Head Coach Jim Larranaga returning home to the city where he grew up.

Tonight, Coach L and his 'Canes were as tough as the Bronx streets he grew up on in defeating the unyielding Temple Owls 60-57.

At the onset both teams were sharp.

In a clean, hard fought, and whistle free first 5 minutes UM held a narrow lead behind two nice post moves by Tonye Jekiri.

Quenton DeCosey countered with two buckets of his own for the Owls.

But Jekiri was shaken up on one of his scores after taking a hard shot to the head from Jaylen Bond, (TJ was later diagnosed with a concussion) and was forced to leave the game. He did not return.

With out their 7 footer the Hurricanes began to struggle and Temple quickly erupted with an 8-0 run to take a 6 point lead.

Already down Angel Rodriguez, the 'Canes offense struggled to find good shots now minus their big man, at one point missing 9 of 10 attempts.

Before you knew it the Hurricanes were down double digits.

Earlier in the season this set of circumstances might have knocked the 'Canes out of the game.

But they remained resilient and resourceful.

Deandre Burnett hit a big three to spark a 9-0 run that also featured buckets by Davon Reed and Sheldon McClellan at the rim, to get Miami right back in the game.

And at the half, the Owls led, but only 30-25.

UM held a 19-17 edge on the glass despite missing the ACC's leader in rebounds for much of the half.

Temple however, was much more proficient shooting from the field at 43.5% (10-23),  than the 'Canes who shot 33.3% (10-30).

In the opening minutes of the second half, the Hurricanes quickly sliced into the lead, aided by triples from Burnett and Ivan Cruz Uceda.

But they remained behind, predictably in part due to their inability to clear the boards on the the defensive glass, minus TJ.

Jesse Morgan and Josh Morgan both had stick backs that kept the Owls out in front.

Omar Sherman came off the bench though and sparked the team scoring a few clutch buckets, including one off a pretty feed from Reed.

The 'Canes fought hard but initially struggled to get over the hump.

Obi Enechionyia was a pest under the basket all night long, scoring time and time again on the block for the Owls.

Miami needed a spark.

They got one.

In perhaps the turning point of the half was an electrifying two handed dunk by James Palmer cut the lead to 43-41 with 8 minutes to go, as the Jekiri-less 'Canes refused to blink.

A minute later Sheldon McClellan nailed a three to finally put Miami in front.

Enechionyia answered again for Temple, but harnessing the same heroics that got the Hurricanes past Richmond  in the quarterfinals, McClellan hit another bomb to keep UM in front.

The 'Canes clung to the lead, playing some superior half court defense and got a clutch bucket from the freshman JaQuan Newton and another finish from McClellan that was set up by a monster block from Sherman, to stretch the lead to as many as 7.

But for the most part this game remained nip and tuck.

On a night where they were with out their biggest and most irreplaceable player, Miami refused to buckle down low, fighting and contesting every Temple take to the bucket.

This was key because the Owls were ice cold from outside, especially in the second half.

It was 56-53 Miami with under a minute to go, when a wild sequence led to a lay in by Will Cummings as he recklessly fell to the floor, to cut it to 1.

But Burnett answered right back with a coast to coast drive to put UM back up 3 with 35 seconds to go.

DeCosey got fouled but missed both from the charity stripe.

McClellan gathered the rebound on the second, and was fouled.   He calmly nailed both of his.

Temple has a chance to tie after a one and one from Burnett rimmed out, but DeCosey's  desperation three hit the from rim and harmlessly rolled out of bounds at the buzzer.

With out Rodriguez and with out Jekiri for the better part of the game, a gutsy Miami team refused to lose.

McClellan (16 points, 11 rebounds)  showed huge mettle in this one again.

And now Coach L and his Miami Hurricanes will be playing for a Championship in the city that never sleeps.

Next Up:   UM faces the winner of Old Dominion Vs Stanford on Thursday Night for the NIT Championship.