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University of Miami men’s basketball maintains momentum, throttles rival Florida State

In what is becoming the new normal at the University of Miami, orange-clad students snaked around the BankUnited Center on Sunday afternoon for a seat in the sold-out arena, and basketball coach Jim Larranaga brought them doughnuts. They then rocked the building as the Atlantic Coast Conference-leading Hurricanes, coming off a historic 27-point win over top-ranked Duke, displayed no signs of a letdown as they dominated Florida State University, 71-47.

UM improved to 15-3 overall, and remains alone atop the ACC with a 6-0 record. It was the Canes’ seventh win in a row, and extended their home record to a perfect 9-0.

Canes fans are apparently getting so blasé about winning that they didn’t storm the floor, as they had after the Duke game and after beating the Seminoles last spring.

The question now: How high will the 25th-ranked Hurricanes move up in Monday’s polls?

UM had the nation’s top-ranked non-conference strength of schedule, and heading into Sunday’s game, their Ratings Percentage Index ranged from No. 3 to No. 5 depending on which computer ranking is used. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton certainly considers the Hurricanes one of the better teams in the nation, and said they will earn their “rightful place” as the season progresses.

“This is a top team in America, a hot team,” said Hamilton, who coached at UM from 1990 to 2000 and led the Canes to the Sweet 16 in his final year. “They play with the maturity of a team on a mission. They make the extra pass. They could do great things. I think Shane Larkin is the best point guard in the league. He makes very few mistakes, has an unselfish spirit, the ball’s safe in his hands, and he plays like a coach on the floor.”

Larkin, the shortest guy on the team at 5-11, led the Canes in rebounding for the second night in a row. He grabbed 10 rebounds against Duke, and on Sunday had nine defensive rebounds against the Seminoles, who boast the fourth-tallest team in the nation with three players 7-foot and taller. Larkin also had six assists and eight points.

Trey McKinney Jones was UM’s leading scorer with 15 points. Durand Scott and Kenny Kadji, both of whom spent significant time on the bench in foul trouble, finished with 11 points each.

Once again, the Hurricanes’ maturity and unselfishness were on display. They connected on perfectly-timed passes time and again, wowed the capacity crowd of 7,972 with textbook alley-oops, and had 19 assists to FSU’s six. They also outscored the Seminoles 34-18 in the paint, and held FSU to a season-low 31 percent shooting.

The Seminoles (11-8, 3-3) closed the gap to 28-26 late in the first half on a three-pointer by Terry Whisnant, but UM finished the half with a 9-2 run and went on a 17-5 run after intermission to put the game out of reach at 54-33. By the end, for the second game in a row, all the UM starters were on the bench and the walk-ons were on the court.

“I’m not very surprised (to be 6-0 in the ACC),” said Kadji, who played only 18 minutes. “With all the work we did over the summer, I expected us to be good. We have great chemistry, and everything is clicking on the court.”

Added McKinney Jones: “We’re a veteran team, we’re playing together and having fun, and when we do that, we’re hard to beat.”

ESPN commentator Jay Williams said during the broadcast that UM looked “like a Final Four team.”

Hamilton, who fought for a decade to get people to notice the Hurricanes, was pleased to see the buzz around the team.

“This UM team deserves that type of recognition,” said Hamilton. “This is the Hurricanes’ time. But they need this kind of support all the time. When you look up and down Tobacco Road, it doesn’t matter to those fans who the opponent is. Their team doesn’t have to be 25th ranked for them to show up. People here need to keep this thing going.”

UM now heads on the road for games Wednesday at Virginia Tech and Saturday at North Carolina State.

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