Any University of Miami basketball fan who worried that the newly anointed No. 8 team in the nation might have suffered a letdown against Conference weakling Boston College on Tuesday night wasnt paying close attention to this particular group of Hurricanes.
North Carolina and Duke didnt rattle them. Neither did FSU or 20,000 crazed North Carolina State fans.
So, there was no way the unflappable Canes were going to come unglued because of some silly ranking or a so-called trap game against the upset-minded Eagles. Miami dominated start to finish, and cruised to a 72-50 victory at BankUnited Center, extending its win streak to 10 games. The Hurricanes are 18-3, remain undefeated at 9-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and havent lost a game since Christmas Day.
And theyre not just winning. Theyre winning big. UM has outscored three of its past five ACC opponents by 20-plus points.
UM is playing with an incredible amount of confidence right now, and that snowballs, Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. They have started to really believe in themselves, and if they keep working on the little things, they know they can be really, really good. Theyre talented, older, not a lot of weaknesses on that team.
Canes guard Rion Brown, who had been in a bit of a shooting funk, came off the bench and tied a career high with 22 points. He made seven of his 11 shots, including 5 of 7 from beyond the three-point arc. He was one of four UM players in double figures.
Kenny Kadji hurt the Eagles in the paint and on the perimeter, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. Durand Scott, whose quick feet looked especially fast in his fluorescent sneakers, had 11 points and seven rebounds. Steady sophomore point guard Shane Larkin chipped in 10 points to go with his five assists. Larkin and Scott combined for eight assists with no turnovers.
The Hurricanes, benefiting from a size advantage, started the game by pounding the Eagles in the paint. Time after time, they got the ball to beefy Reggie Johnson, energetic Julian Gamble and rangy Kenny Kadji. Even 7-foot freshman Tonye Jekiri got in on the action.
Once they got the Boston College defenders worried about UMs big men, the Canes kicked it out to their sharpshooters. Trey McKinney Jones hit UMs first three of the game with 8:22 to go in the first half, Larkin hit one, Brown hit another, and the Hurricanes led 33-23 at halftime.
Kadji scored the first nine points of the second half to open a 43-29 lead, and then Brown got on his hot streak.
My teammates did a great job of finding me, Brown said. Its been a little bit of a struggle this year, with my shooting, but I just got in the gym, and kept getting up shots.
It was the Canes first game since being ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, the schools highest ranking since March 1960. They were hoping that new status, and increased publicity, would lead to a third consecutive sellout. Alas, this is still Miami, so they had to settle for a spirited crowd of 5,149 and a couple of thousand empty seats.
The building is already sold out for Saturdays 2 p.m. game against North Carolina. UM players said they never looked past Boston College, refusing to let their minds wander to the Tar Heels.
With a senior-laden team like this, you wouldnt expect us to look ahead, said Gamble, a sixth-year senior and one of six seniors on the roster. We came out with tremendous energy, and we knew they werent going to lay down for us. This was a great opportunity for them to get a big win, and we knew that, so we didnt let up.
Eagles freshman Joe Rahon, who was coming off a 26-point game, was held scoreless. Ryan Anderson led Boston College with 14 points. Miami native Eddie Odio, cheered on by friends and family, played 23 minutes and had five points, two rebounds, a block and a steal.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, continue to capture the attention of college basketball fans nationwide. Their RPI is up to No. 2, and some bracketologists have them projected as high as a No. 2 and No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UM coach Jim Larranaga refuses to look ahead.
Ive been at this a long time, he said. I know the moment you get distracted, its like driving your car and texting at the same time, its too easy to get into an accident.