After struggling at the free-throw line in a loss to Syracuse, Montrezl Harrell flew home and went to the gym.
The extra work paid off as his key free throws in the final minute gave No. 12 Louisville a 55-53 win over Miami.
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Harrell finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead a Cardinals’ comeback where they trailed by as many as 13. Louisville’s preseason All-America forward made one of two in each of his first three trips to the foul line before hitting two free throws with 35.6 seconds left to put the Cardinals up for good.
"Don’t think about your last miss," Harrell said of his approach. "Step up there with confidence."
Down 53-52, Louisville’s Terry Rozier tipped Deandre Burnett’s pass into the hands of Harrell with 55 seconds left. That set up Chris Jones’ drive and pass to Harrell on the opposite end. He was fouled on a layup attempt before hitting the critical free throws.
"Just getting a fingernail on the ball wins the game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
Burnett tried to dribble out of trouble on Miami’s next possession but again turned it over, losing the ball to Harrell. Harrell was fouled with 10 seconds left and hit the first free throw for the game’s final margin.
Jones added 14 of his 17 points in the second half for Louisville (21-6, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) in returning from a one-game suspension.
He said he sat in his dorm room alone during the 69-59 loss at Syracuse, throwing the TV remote at his bed in anger as he watched his teammates struggle.
"I take the blame of that game," Jones said. "Coach knows I take that blame any day of the week. I couldn’t let my team lose this game tonight."
Sheldon McClellan scored 17 points and Tonye Jekiri added 13 points and 15 rebounds for Miami (17-10, 7-7).
Miami could have won on the final possession but Angel Rodriguez’s 3 with three seconds left was short. The junior point guard finished 1 of 12 from the field.
"I thought it was a great shot," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "He got it right in rhythm, right in transition, and he hits that shot a lot."
The Hurricanes led 53-50 with 1:37 remaining after Burnett banked in a runner and later hit two free throws. Wayne Blackshear’s pump fake and 12-foot jumper on the next possession, the last of his 10 points, pulled Louisville within one.
Pitino said Friday his team "desperately" needed to win in a game with high stakes for both teams. The Cardinals had lost three of their last four while Miami was looking for another Top 25 victory to bolster its NCAA tournament credentials.
The Cardinals wiped away a 29-19 halftime deficit with a 17-3 run to the start the half, scoring 12 straight to take their first lead with 14:41 to play. The Cardinals hit four 3’s and Jones had 10 points during the stretch, making his return after missing Louisville’s 69-59 loss at Syracuse.
Omar Sherman scored Miami’s first seven points as the Hurricanes jumped out to an early 19-6 lead after Sheldon McClellan’s 3-pointer 7½ minutes into the game.
Another McClellan 3 with 43 seconds left in the half again put the Hurricanes up 13, Miami’s biggest lead.
Louisville shot 34 percent (19 of 56) compared to Miami’s 38 percent (21 of 56) but used a 23-13 second-half rebounding edge to help secure the win.
Harrell was given a technical foul for throwing the ball off Tonye Jekiri’s face with 1:49 left in the first half. The referees deemed the play intentional, a point Harrell disputed.
"I didn’t intentionally try to hit him in the face," Harrell said. "He ducked and ended up getting hit in the face. After the game I asked him if he was OK and was everything good and he was fine with it."
Jekiri missed the opening minutes of the second half as Louisville rallied but did play 17 minutes in the half.
Louisville: The Cardinals had nine steals Saturday after getting just two in each of their last two games, well below their average of eight per game.
Miami: The Hurricanes are now 3-4 against Top 25 teams this season. … Center Tonye Jekiri had 15 rebounds for the third straight game.