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Canes edge USC 68-66 in first round of the NCAA tournament

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Miami advances to face Auburn on Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Miami vs Southern California Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Whew.

A thrilling ending and - finally - a close call went Miami’s way, and the result was a 68-66 nail-biting win for the Canes over USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Charlie Moore’s two free throws with 3 seconds remaining proved to be the difference. Moore was fouled on the arm on the way to the basket with the game squared at 66 after USC’s Drew Peterson tied the game on a layup with 14 seconds to go.

Peterson - who scored USC’s final 8 points in the game’s last minute - got off a half-court heave at the buzzer that hit the backboard, rattled off the rim, and fell harmlessly to the court. Yours truly collapsed on my parents’ padded dining room ottoman in relief, as Miami’s players celebrated the thrilling finish.

Miami led 64-58 with 44 seconds left after Bensley Joseph drained two key free throws. A Peterson three followed by a Charlie Moore turnover and another Peterson three drew the Trojans back to within a point at 65-64. Canes fans’ hearts were aflutter, and visions of Virginia Tech were coming back. But after USC worked the game back to a tie, Moore’s aggressive move wound up sealing the win for UM.

Isaiah Wong was a man possessed, going for a game-high 22 points and adding four rebounds. He picked up some cheap - and questionable - fouls that kept him on the bench for much of the second half. He fouled out with just over 2 minutes to play. Fortunately, Charlie Moore and Kam McGusty picked up the slack.

And credit is due to Miami’s guard play, as Miami finished with 13 assists to only 3 turnovers, which was a season low. USC turned the ball over 18 times. The number of turnovers and points in transition was unquestionably the difference for Miami, which has been its formula for success all year.

Miami will face 2-seed Auburn on Sunday. The Tigers defeated Jacksonville State 80-61.

Go Canes!