The Miami Hurricanes became the first qualifier for the NCAA’s Sweet 16 after disposing of the Wichita State Shockers, 65-57. In a battle of backcourts, it was the Hurricanes’ duo of Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan who carried the day. The third-seeded Hurricanes had to survive a frantic second half run by the Shockers to advance.
Miami got off to a strong start, dominating the Shockers at both ends of the court. With 8:26 remaining in the first half, Wichita State Coach Gregg Marshall called a time out with his team trailing 27-6.
Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Marshall could have easily told his team they were not in Kansas anymore. He was trying to help the Shockers recover from a category 5 Hurricane attack that was forcing turnovers and making it difficult for Wichita State to get open shots.
Up to that point, Rodriguez and McClellan were totally outplaying their heralded counterparts from Wichita, Fred Van Fleet and Ron Baker. When Marshall called the timeout, neither Baker nor Van Fleet had made a shot.
Out of the timeout, the 11th-seeded Shockers went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to 10. Miami went into the halftime locker room with a 32-19 lead.
After a Kamari Murphy dunk restored Miami’s lead to 38-21, Wichita State turned up the pressure on both ends of the court. Eight points in 35 seconds lowered the Shockers’ deficit to nine. Another 11-0 run covering 2:30, capped by a Baker 3-pointer with 10:29 remaining, gave them their first lead.
Miami responded beautifully, scoring six quick points to regain the lead. Davon Reed may have had the best 20 seconds of the game.
Leading only 52-48, Reed blocked Rashard Kelly’s layup on one end, then nailed a three-pointer with 4:56 remaining to put Miami in full control. They were able to keep the Shockers at bay for the rest of the game.
“The way we were playing to start the second half, we had careless turnovers, we were very tentative, very unlike the way we played to start the game,” said Miami Coach Jim Larranaga. “And as they began to whittle down the lead, instead of getting tougher-minded and fighting harder, we tended to let up. I think it snapped our guys out of the doldrums and got them aggressive again, which I’d have to say was good timing.”
Rodriguez was huge for Miami, scoring 28 points on nine of 11 shooting, including three of four from three-point range. He also committed seven turnovers. McClellan added 18 and Reed scored 10.
Wichita State was led by Van Fleet and Shaq Morris with 12 points. Van Fleet was only four of 12 from the field and one for six from 3-point range. Baker had 11 points.
The Hurricanes shot 55 percent from the field, something that rarely occurs against the Wichita State swarming defense. Instead, it was Miami’s defense that helped decide the game, holding the Shockers to only 34 percent shooting.
Miami now advances to South Regional semi-finals in Louisville, where they will face the winner of the game between second-seeded Villanova and the seventh-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes.