Sophomore guard Shane Larkin took charge, as usual. After missing his first seven shots, he hit back-to-back threes to give UM a 44-34 lead. All the seniors started, so he began the game on the bench. When he saw Clemson guard Jordan Roper put up 12 quick points, he asked Larranaga to let him guard Roper. Roper never scored again.
“Shane told me, ‘I’m ready to go, let me guard Roper,’ ” Larranaga said. “I’m very coachable, so I put Shane in and he guarded Roper.”
The coach said was he was relieved more than happy after the game.
“We had gotten distracted maybe because of all the media attention and no longer were the games as exciting and as much fun,” he said. “It was more of a job. And I felt like [Saturday] at halftime, the most important message was to remind the players to enjoy the process.
“If we told you before the year that we’d go 7-2 on the road in the ACC and 8-1 at home after we lost to St. Leo’s in the exhibition game, you’d have laughed your head off and said, ‘This guy is a fool.’ And I am. Because I’m foolish enough to dream big dreams.”
Only the long-suffering fans among the crowd Saturday could remember the last time there was a UM net-cutting ceremony.
It was exactly 13 years ago this week. Leonard Hamilton and his 23rd-ranked Canes had just claimed the co-Big East championship with Syracuse after stunning then-No. 18 St. John’s in overtime at Miami Arena. A crowd of 7,158 went berserk as Hamilton hung the net around his neck.
UM president Donna Shalala cut down a piece of net Saturday after the players. She admitted she was a bit nervous to go up there, but Reggie Johnson had her back.
“What a thrill,” Shalala said. “It means everything to the university, and I am so proud of Jim Larranaga. He’s a world-class teacher and making basketball fun here, and those young men have come so far in such a short period of time.”
UM athletic director Blake James, clutching his piece of net, said: “You see what Miami basketball can be. Coach Larranaga is a winner, from the X’s and O’s to community outreach to getting students involved. This is a very special day.”