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Villanova bounces Miami from NCAA Tournament

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The Miami Hurricanes’ first-ever  trip to the Elite 8 will have to wait for at least another year. Second-seeded Villanova used their size, quickness and shooting accuracy to eliminate third-seeded Miami from the South Regional, 92-69 on Thursday night in Louisville.

Looking at the box score, it is incredible to believe that Miami not only lost the game, but lost it by 23 points. The Hurricanes shot 53 percent for the game, including 10 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc (59 percent).

Villanova topped those numbers and then some. The Wildcats hit 32 of their 51 shots, good for 63 percent from the floor.

They made 67 percent of their 3-point attempts (10-15) and missed only one of 19 free throws. The hot shooting limited Miami to only 10 defensive rebounds the entire game.

The Wildcats’ zone defense forced the Hurricanes to play a half-court game, instead of a fast-paced up and down game of transition basketball. While Miami’s guard tandem of Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan combined for 39 points, the Villanova front court dominated the Hurricane trio of Davon Reed, Tonye Jikiri and Kamari Murphy.

Villanova’s front court outscored their Miami counterparts 52-16 and out-rebounded them, 14-8. Jekiri and Murphy both fouled out of the game.

Miami never led as Villanova jumped out to an 8-0 start and extended the margin to 29-14 with 8:37 remaining in the half. The Hurricanes would make the best run of the game to get back in it.

McClellan and Rodriguez each made two 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 29-26. A layup by Rodriguez brought the Hurricanes to within 31-30 with 4:33 remaining. Villanova led 43-37 at the break.

A jumper by Josh Hart got the lead back up to 10 less than two minutes into the second half. The Hurricanes could not crack that barrier and it would only get worse.

Ryan Arcidiacono continued to be a thorn in the Hurricanes’ side when he nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the game to extend the lead to 81-61. Villanova cruised to the finish.

“They’re just an incredible offensive team,” said Miami Coach Jim Larranaga. “We had no way to stop them.”

Arcidiacono and Kris Jenkins led the Wildcats with 21 points each. Daniel Ochefu added 17.

McClellan, with 26, and Rodriguez, with 13 were the only two Hurricanes’ players in double figures. Both are seniors and played their final game in a Hurricane uniform.

“For the last three years, they’ve given me the greatest pleasure as a coach that you could possibly ask from a player,” said Larranaga.

Jekiri and reserve Ivan Cruz Uceda are the other two seniors.

Miami finishes the season with a 27-8 record. Villanova goes on to play Kansas in the South Regional final on Saturday. The Jayhawks defeated Maryland, 79-63 on Thursday.

In the West Region, Oregon beat Duke, 82-68 while Oklahoma handled Texas A&M 77-63. The Sooners and Ducks will play for the championship on Saturday.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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