CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Down to its third try and last chance, Miami came through.
Kenny Kadji scored a season-high 23 points to help the sixth-ranked Hurricanes win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship outright by beating Clemson 62-49 on Saturday.
Kadji also grabbed 12 rebounds and Miami (24-6, 15-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) clinched its first outright men’s basketball league title after being foiled in consecutive losses to Duke and Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes tied the school record for victories set in 2001-02, when they went 24-8, and improved to 14-1 at home in their regular-season finale.
The league championship is the second for the Hurricanes, who shared the Big East Conference title in 2000.
Clemson (13-17, 5-13) has lost six consecutive games and nine of its past 10.
After struggling on defense recently, the Hurricanes clamped down, limiting Clemson to one basket during a pivotal 9-minute stretch to start the second half. Miami held a league opponent to 50 points or fewer for the seventh time.
When Kadji sank a 3-pointer for a 55-41 lead with 3:10 left, the Hurricanes ran upcourt grinning at each other to a deafening roar from the crowd, dressed as one in white ACC championship T-shirts. The game was the fifth sellout this year for the Hurricanes, traditional cellar-dwellers in ACC attendance.
After the final seconds ticked off, confetti rained from the ceiling.
Kadji, one of six seniors playing his final home game, went 4 for 6 from 3-point range. Fellow senior Trey McKinney Jones scored 10 points.
Sophomore guard Shane Larkin came off the bench for the first time this season and struggled early, missing his first seven shots. But he hit a pair of important 3-pointers late and finished with 11 points.
Clemson freshman Jordan Roper led the Tigers with 12 points, all in the first 5 minutes before Larkin entered the game and began to guard him.
The score was 25-all at halftime, and the Hurricanes took the lead for good with a 13-3 run to start the second half. Kadji hit consecutive baskets, the second a 3-pointer. Durand Scott then scored on back-to-back possessions for a 38-28 advantage with 11 minutes remaining.
Larkin was scoreless until he sank a 3-pointer with 8:46 left. He made another one on Miami’s next possession for a 44-34 lead.
Julian Gamble’s two free throws put Miami up by 13 for the first time at 51-38 with 4 minutes left.
Roper scored Clemson’s first five baskets, including a pair of 3-pointers for a 12-11 lead.