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 wasn’t paying close attention to this particular group of Hurricanes.
North Carolina and Duke didn’t 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 haven’t lost a game since Christmas Day.
And they’re not just winning. They’re 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. They’re 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 UM’s big men, the Canes kicked it out to their sharpshooters. Trey McKinney Jones hit UM’s 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. “It’s 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 school’s 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 Saturday’s 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 wouldn’t 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 weren’t going to lay down for us. This was a great opportunity for them to get a big win, and we knew that, so we didn’t 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.
“I’ve been at this a long time,” he said. “I know the moment you get distracted, it’s like driving your car and texting at the same time, it’s too easy to get into an accident.”