Miami of Florida, a participating school in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off next November 19, 20 and 22, rallied from an 18-point deficit in the opening three-plus minutes of the second-half to advance to the semi-finals of the NIT by defeating Richmond 63-61 in a quarter-final game Tuesday in the Virginia capital city.
The Spiders led 36-18 after Kendall Anthony’s three-point basket with 16:54 remaining in the game. The Hurricanes out-scored the Spiders 45-25 in the final 16:27 of the contest to earn a spot in March 31’s NIT semi-finals against either Temple or Louisiana Tech. Temple (25-10), which will also participate in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off, hosts Tech Wednesday.
Other schools competing in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off are Butler, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri State, Texas Tech and Utah. The ninth annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off will be played November 19, 20 and 22 at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente. West Virginia captured the 2014 PRTO by defeating Connecticut in the championship game.
Utah has advanced to the NCAA “Sweet 16” where the Utes play Duke Friday in Houston. Butler advanced to the NCAA third-round before losing 67-64 to Notre Dame. Minnesota captured the 2010 Puerto Rico Tip-Off when current Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith was leading the Gophers. Miami won the inaugural Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2007.
Miami has a 24-12 record this season and becomes the sixth Puerto Rico Tip-Off participant to reach the NIT semi-finals the previous season. Other Puerto Rico Tip-Off participants competing in the semi-finals at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden were North Carolina (2010), Wichita State (2011 champions), Alabama (2011), Colorado (2011), UMass (2012).
Junior guard Sheldon McClellan led Miami with 16 points while sophomore guard Davon Reed had 10 points and 12 rebounds as the Hurricanes dominated the glass 47-32, including 17 offensive rebounds. Seven-foot junior center Tonye Jekiri had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Hurricanes while reserve freshman guard Ja’Quan Newton adding 11 points.
McClelland, who gave Miami its first lead of the game with 1:02 remaining, scored seven straight points. He hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 2:03 left. Reed added two free throws for a 61-55 lead with 26 seconds left.
NOTE – With the win, Miami will play at Madison Square Garden in New York City, which will be Coach Jim Larrañaga’s first appearance as a head coach in the World’s Most Famous Arena. He played in multiple times in Madison Square Garden while at Providence, and was an assistant coach for Virginia when the Cavaliers won the NIT in 1980 Larrañaga’s final collegiate game as a Friar was played against UNC in 1971, an 86-79 loss for PC in the NIT “Elite Eight”.
With 24 victories so far this season, Larrañaga has now posted two of the school’s top three best seasons, with 29 wins in 2012-2013 and 24 in 2014-15. The other was 24 wins in 2001-2002.
Puerto Rico native Angel Rodriguez, Miami’s second-leading scorer (11.9 points per game) and top play-maker (3.9 assists per game), has missed the Hurricanes last two NIT games due to a wrist injury. Rodriguez played only nine minutes (four points and one assist) in Miami’s opening NIT win against North Carolina Central. Both McClellan, the Hurricanes leading scorer (14.4 per game) and Rodriguez earned all-ACC honorable mention honors.