In the best season in program history, Miami advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 63-59 win over #7-seed Illinois. Shane Larkin, son of MLB legend Barry Larkin, knocked down the biggest shot of the night with a game-clinching three-pointer with 1:04 remaining in the second half. Larkin’s three gave the Hurricanes a 2-point lead that they would never relinquish, and with that, it probably doubled as the biggest shot in the history of Miami basketball.
Both teams played a rugged style throughout, holding each other to around 40% shooting (40% exactly for Miami and 37% for Illinois) on the night, but keeping the turnovers to a minimum on both ends of the court.
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Miami’s X-factor was the play of their 6th man, Rion Brown, as Brown came off of the bench and led the team in scoring with 21 points (on 7-14 FG) and knocked down five crucial three-pointers (on 10 attempts). Brown’s production, along with Larkin’s solid performance, helped to overwrite a relatively “off” night for Durand Scott, who finished with just 6 points on 2-8 shooting.
On the other end of the court, Illinois fought valiantly in the second half to keep things close, even vaulting ahead of Miami late in the game (prior to the Larkin three), and looking like they would steal a Sweet 16 bid. Leading scorer Brandon Paul had 18 points, but struggled somewhat from the field (8-20 FG, 2-9 from three), and DJ Richardson had the worst game of his season, shooting a mind-blowing 1-for-11 from the field including 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. The Illini did their best to overcome their shooting woes, but in the end, it wasn’t enough for a perimeter-based offense such as theirs. On the positive side for Illinois, they received great minutes from Tyler Griffey, who knocked down all 3 of his 3-point attempts in the first half, and finished the game with 12 points and 7 rebounds off of the bench.
It is tough to avoid being happy for the veterans of the Miami program, as they came out of nowhere to garner a #2-seed (some would argue they were even under-seeded), and they absolutely gutted out a victory here to get to Washington DC. They will face a formidable challenge in the picture of Marquette, but Miami matches up favorably with the Golden Eagles, and the path is relatively clear to a potential Elite 8 face-off with #1-seed Indiana.
Be sure to stay tuned to FanSided.com throughout the entire tournament as we keep you up to date with the latest results.