Miami benefits from guest motivator in rout of Virginia Tech

Miami center Tonye Jekiri (23) grabs a rebound against Virginia Tech forward Christian Beyer (22) during the second half.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Inspiration can come from various sources and messages.

Entering Wednesday night’s matchup, the Miami Hurricanes needed a spark with six games remaining in the regular season and their NCAA Tournament hopes slipping away.

In came Ric Elias.

CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a marketing company based in South Carolina, Elias spoke to the team prior to the 76-52 blowout win over Virginia Tech.

Elias is no stranger to the Miami program. He has known head coach Jim Larranaga for nine years, and he takes part in the fantasy basketball camp. Earlier in the season when the Hurricanes played in the Gildan Charleston Classic, they practiced at Red Ventures. At a team dinner, Elias spoke.

His success story has proven to be an inspiration to not just Miami but many others. Elias, who grew up in Puerto Rico, attended Boston College and Harvard Business School. He was on the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009.

On Tuesday, Elias texted Larranaga saying he would be in town for the game and wondering whether he could speak again. He thought his message could benefit Miami, losers of four of its past six.

"At this time of year, players are so tired of hearing from me and the coaches about the same things," Larranaga said. "We thought it would be a good idea to give Ric a chance because these guys on the team know him."

It worked. After taking a 3-point lead into halftime, the Hurricanes went on a 15-4 run to break open the game.

Junior Tonye Jekiri finished with a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds (just four fewer than the Hokies as a team). Redshirt junior Sheldon McClellan scored a game-high 21 points.

Miami outscored Virginia Tech 34-14 in the paint and 19-3 on second-chance points. The 24-point win was its largest margin of victory since defeating the College of Charleston 67-40 on Dec. 30.

"Today we also had a guest who talked to us of how our mindset should be and what our goal in life should be," said Jekiri, who credited the team’s aggressiveness. "After the talk from Coach L we came out knowing we had to play as hard."

Eight players scored for the Hurricanes, and walk-ons Chris Stowell and Mike Fernandez entered the game with 46.3 seconds remaining.

Miami would like to see the strong second half carry over for Saturday’s rematch at No. 12 Louisville. The Hurricanes took care of business Wednesday against a sub-.500 ACC team it was supposed to beat.

"He has some incredible life experiences and he shared some of his thoughts with the team after our shootaround," Larranaga said of Elias. "I thought his message was very, very clear: These opportunities only come along once in a lifetime. This one season. These games you’ve got to be prepared to be at your best. If you want to accomplish anything, you have to work for it not only individually, but as a team. And I thought our guys did that tonight."

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