CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This is one A-Rod Miami can fully celebrate.
Angel Rodriguez had 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Hurricanes won their fifth straight at the Charleston Classic with a 79-51 victory over Akron on Friday.
Miami will play in Sunday’s final and try for its second crown at the eight-team event in five seasons. Coach Jim Larranaga knows his team wouldn’t be in this position without Rodriguez.
"His leadership responsibility manifests itself in so many different ways," Larranaga said. "On rebounds, you see it on offense making big threes. Making the free throw when it counts. All those things make him a real joy for me to coach."
The Kansas State transfer acquired the nickname, "A-Rod," with his move to Miami — an obvious reference to the New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who’s made South Florida his home and name is on the Hurricanes’ baseball stadium.
Angel Rodriguez is happy to share it with the more well-known "A-Rod," despite the ballplayer’s yearlong suspension and tarnished image in the game due to using performance-enhancing drugs.
"To be honest with you, I didn’t hear it at Kansas State," he said. "But when I moved to Miami, I heard it so much that when I’m shooting and I miss, I say, `C’mon, A-Rod.’ It’s a cool thing. The A-Rod that I know is a great baseball player."
Angel Rodriguez is on the way to being one of Miami’s best basketball players. He had 24 points in the Hurricanes upset of No. 8 Florida, 69-67, this past Monday. Akron coach Keith Dambrot said Rodriguez was hard for his backcourt to handle.
"He made a lot of plays and we did a bad job condensing the floor" to limit Rodriguez’s freedom to roam.
Rodriguez guided the Hurricanes on an 18-2 run midway through the second half to put away Akron (2-1).
James Palmer hit two 3-pointers and Rodriguez closed the surge with a steal of an inbounds pass for an easy layup and a 58-35 lead.
Sheldon McClellan led Miami with 17 points and Manu Lecomte added 14.
Jake Kretzer and Pat Forsythe had 11 points each for the Zips, who’ll play for third place on Sunday.
The 5-foot-11 Rodriguez left the game with three minutes to go, just an assist and two rebounds shy of a triple-double.
Omar Sherman was Miami’s fourth player in double figures with 13 points. Tonye Jekiri had a career-high 16 rebounds after getting 13 in the Hurricanes’ opener with Drexel on Thursday.
The Hurricanes eventually grew the lead to 29 points down the stretch.
Miami and Akron both came into this off dominating victories that ended in the same score.
For the Hurricanes, Rodriguez and Lecomte had 15 points apiece in the 66-46 win over Drexel. The Zips opened the tournament Thursday by defeating Southern Cal, 66-46, as Cheatham and Forsythe combined for 30 points and 16 rebounds.
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE
Angel Rodriguez said if he knew he was just a couple of rebounds and an assist from a triple-double, he wouldn’t have driven to the basket near the end when he got called for a charge. "I would probably kick it out" seeking his 10th assist, he said with a smile.
LIVING WITHOUT TREE
Akron coach Keith Dambrot said his team didn’t do as well dealing with the absence of suspended senior Demetrius "Tree" Treadwell in this game as it did in Akron’s opener. Center Pat Forsythe had 11 points, but missed 10 shots when Miami’s forwards collapsed on him. "It’s going to take some time," Dambrot said.
Akron: The Zips have only beaten Miami one time 56 years ago, defeating the Hurricanes 106-80 on Dec. 8, 1956.
Miami: The Hurricanes improved to 7-3 in regular-season tournament play in coach Larranaga’s four seasons. Miami has won five of six such contests the past two years.
Akron will face the loser of the Charlotte vs South Carolina matchup for third place at the Charleston Classic on Sunday.
Miami will play the winner in the championship game.