MIAMI – The country’s new No. 8 team seemed to be taking care of business against the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar dweller.
It was the second half and Miami led, though it had failed to deliver a knockout punch to Boston College.
The Eagles were within 8 points with little more than 17 minutes left, and thoughts of a Hurricanes letdown were surfacing.
That’s when Kenny Kadji stepped up (and out) to unload the decisive blows – two 3-pointers and a free throw in a 37-second span that opened a 13-point Miami lead.
BC never got closer, trailing by as many as 28 late, as the Canes cruised to a 72-50 victory Tuesday night at the BankUnited Center.
Junior reserve Rion Brown scored a game-high 22 points, most coming after the verdict pretty much had been determined.
It was the 6-foot-11, 242-pound Kadji who sent the message that the Hurricanes (18-3) would not be denied in extending their ACC record to 9-0 and their home mark to 10-0.
“Really daggers,” BC coach Steve Donahue said of Kadji’s treys. “At that point, we were hanging on.”
Any Top 10 team sports several key players, and Miami is no exception. Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin makes the team go, and senior guard Durand Scott always makes his presence known. Guard Trey McKinney-Jones and fellow seniors Julian Gamble and Reggie Johnson also have been valuable contributors.
Then there’s Kadji, a Cameroon native, who transferred to Miami after two years at Florida. Of all the Hurricanes seniors, he figures to have the most NBA potential.
Leo Papile, a former longtime Boston Celtics scout, attended Tuesday night’s game and projected Kadji to be chosen around Nos. 21-40 in this year’s NBA Draft.
“He’s the most improved player I’ve seen in a two-year period,” said Papile, who now run his own basketball personnel company. “He’s made quantum leaps. I think he’s one of the big sleepers in this year’s draft.”
Papile added potential pro suitors might have one concern: Kadji will be 25 in May. Thus, his physical maturation is so far along, it likely has a smaller curve than that of younger players.
Of course, that’s of little concern right now to Miami. Kadji averages 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 rebounds for a team riding a 10-game winning streak.
“Whatever the team needs,” said Kadji, who finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds. “If I have a smaller guy on me, I’ll go inside. I can step and I have a bigger guy, I’ll drive.
“Just call my name and I’ll do whatever.”
It’s not like Kadji is a long-distance operator – he has only hit only 14 shots (on 31 attempts) from beyond the arc in 9 conference games.
Still, it’s the outside threat that means everything to coach Jim Larranaga.
“That’s what made us tough to guard – we have some guys who can score in and around the basket, Kenny is one of them, Julian, Reggie,” Larranaga said. “But Kenny’s ability then to step out and stretch the defense at the 4 spot gives the other guys room to drive.
“Shane and Durand are really, really good at either driving or dishing. Kenny often is the recipient of a of of good passes.”
And sometimes, he’s the deliverer of key 3-pointers.