AUSTIN -- Durand Scott was not known as a three-point shooter early in his career, but he had five three-pointers in the 78-49 win against Pacific on Friday. And he also made five three-pointers in his 32-point performance against North Carolina State in the ACC tournament.
He gave all the credit to the UM coaching staff, particularly assistant Michael Huger.
“When they came in, they broke down each player’s game, figured out what they’re good at and what they need work at,” Scott said. “Coach Huger helped with my footwork, which definitely needed improvement. They gave me confidence, told me I could shoot the ball, gave me the green light.”
UM coach Jim Larrañaga said they have a drill in which if you make 50 three-pointers in five minutes, you have the green light to shoot. Scott has hit as many as 80, “and he would still pass up on those shots.”
“We just encouraged him that, ‘Hey, when you’re open and you’re in rhythm, take the shot. You don’t have to drive every time.”
Illinois coach John Groce said he hadn’t had time to scout the Hurricanes before Friday night, but he had a pretty good idea what to expect Sunday. The Illini beat Colorado 57-49 to advance to the Round of 32.
“They’ve got great size, will play very hard, and I’ve watched Coach Larrañaga’s teams not only at Miami but at George Mason, so I know they will be very well coached,” Groce said. “Larkin’s terrific at guard. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more over the next few hours.”
The seventh-seeded Illini are 23-12, and have held their opponents to under 60 points in seven of the past nine games.
UM fans who think it is too late (or too expensive) to get tickets for Sunday’s game against Illinois might want to check the Internet. Several Hurricanes fans at the Erwin Center for Friday’s opener said they got front-row tickets for $75 apiece the night before the game.
“I’m a UM grad living in San Antonio, and Thursday night, on a whim, I figured, ‘What the heck? Let me see if I can get a ticket,” said Harry Walby, who played for the Hurricanes pep band in the mid-90s. “When I first got them, I thought it was a mistake. I thought there was no way I got front-row seats the night before the game.”
UM fan Jerome McNair and his 17-year-old son, Kealan, were sitting a few seats down, also in the front row. They also paid $75. McNair grew up in Miami, played basketball at Miami Central High and has been a lifelong Canes fan. He lives in Melbourne now.
“I remember back when you’d get UM basketball tickets with a Whopper Meal at Burger King,” McNair said. “I’m loyal to UM in good times and bad. I never imagined they’d get this good, so I wanted to be here for the occasion.”
• Among the UM fans in the stands Friday was former Hurricanes coach Perry Clark. He said he is very impressed with this Canes team.
“They’ve very, very good and if they keep playing like this, they can do something special,” Clark said. “I like their chemistry. I love Shane Larkin’s leadership. The whole team is very unselfish, and Jim’s doing a great job. I will always have a place in my heart for UM.”
• UM forward Kenny Kadji, who transferred to UM after two seasons at the University of Florida, said he was happy to run into his old coaches and teammates.
“I don’t have anything but respect for them,” he said. “Everybody was happy to see me, and I was happy to see them. It was a great two years there. I just wanted to start anew, and Miami was recruiting me out of high school, so I went there. And my brother was going to school there, so that sealed the deal for me.”