Stout defense helps Miami finish off rally to beat Louisville
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — With the Miami Hurricanes trailing Louisville midway through the second half Saturday, coach Jim Larranaga pulled aside senior guard Angel Rodriguez during a timeout for a pep talk.
"I said, `Listen, you need to show everybody in this arena how hard you’re willing to play to win this game, and your teammates will follow,’" Larranaga said.
Coach was right.
Rodriguez cranked up the pressure at the top of the Hurricanes’ defense and ran the offense flawlessly as they scored 12 consecutive points and rallied to win their home finale, 73-65.
No. 12 Miami held No. 11 Louisville without a point for nearly 5 minutes, and the Cardinals missed nine consecutive shots as their 62-58 lead turned into a 70-62 deficit.
"Defense set the tone," Rodriguez said. "Once we started getting stops, it seemed like the basket opened up."
Rodriguez had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Hurricanes (23-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who completed a sweep of their nine league home games. It was the final home game for seniors Rodriguez, Tonye Jekiri, Sheldon McClellan and Ivan Cruz Uceda.
"A very emotional day," said Rodriguez, whose family flew in from his native Puerto Rico for the game. "I’m very happy we won, and as an individual, obviously I’ve got to be happy with my performance."
Miami trailed 56-51 with 8 minutes left before Rodriguez took charge.
"From that moment on he was sensational, the best player at both ends of the court," Larranaga said.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino agreed.
"He’s a much different player than last year," Pitino said. "Last year he was out of control, he was erratic, he was heavy. This year he is light and doing all the smart things. You’ve got to give credit to a player who turns around his body and his game like that."
The Cardinals (22-7, 11-5) fell behind Miami into third place in the league race with two games left. They will sit out this year’s conference and NCAA tournaments as a self-imposed penalty announced early this month, and given the circumstances, Pitino is pleased his Cardinals have continued to play hard.
"You would think we’re playing for a one seed," he said. "We won’t hang any banners, we won’t have any Final Fours. But I’ll appreciate this team so much."
Miami’s Davon Reed scored 17 points, including a 3-pointer in the final minute to help seal the win. McClellan added 13 points.
Jekiri made a big impact on defense. He had two steals, eight rebounds and eight points, making both ends of a 1-and-1 to put the Hurricanes ahead to stay, 63-62.
"Both teams played really good basketball, fun basketball," Pitino said. "But they were the better team in the second half."
Louisville sophomore Chinanu Onuaku, who fouled out late in the game, tied a career high with six assists and had 10 points and eight rebounds. He frowned when asked why his team went cold late in the game.
"I didn’t get the ball inside," he said. "They were pressuring our guards a lot."
Cardinals leading scorer Damion Lee went 3 for 12 from the field, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. He scored six points, more than 10 below his average.
Quentin Snider had 14 points for the Cardinals, who were shooting 56 percent for the game before their late drought.
The Hurricanes scored on nine of 11 possessions down the stretch, with Rodriguez repeatedly hurting Louisville on the pick and roll.
"They turned it up," Cardinals guard Trey Lewis said. "Rodriguez picked us apart in the end."
A capacity crowd roared as the Hurricanes staged their comeback. Miami finished 15-1 at home, with the only loss to Northeastern in November.
The Hurricanes were without sixth man Ja’Quan Newton, who began a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
"He’s a great kid, he made a mistake and now he’s paying the price," Larranaga said. "He’ll be back for the ACC Tournament and learn from this."
Miami beat Louisville for the first time since 1963. The Cardinals had won five straight in the series.
Louisville hosts Georgia Tech on Tuesday.
The Hurricanes visit No. 23 Notre Dame on Wednesday. It will be their fourth consecutive game against a ranked team over a 12-day stretch.
- Angel Rodriguez
- Davon Reed
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- FOX Sports Florida - Hurricanes
- Miami (FL) Hurricanes
- Tonye Jekiri