The bubble didn’t burst for the University of Miami basketball team Wednesday night.
Sheldon McClellan, playing with a strained groin muscle, scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and Davon Reed tied a career high with 19 points as the Hurricanes defeated Pittsburgh 67-63 at the Petersen Events Center to keep their hopes of making the NCAA Tournament alive.
UM improved to 19-11 overall and 9-8 in the ACC with one game remaining in the regular season. Coach Jim Larrañaga believes a road win over last-place Virginia Tech (10-20, 2-15) on Saturday should be enough to gain an invitation to the NCAAs because it would give the Canes a winning record in a power conference.
Whether the tournament selection committee agrees with Larrañaga’s rationale remains to be seen. However, Miami likely improved its RPI standing with a solid road win as the Hurricanes came into the game ranked No. 71 while Pitt was No. 49.
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“I’m very, very happy with the win,” Larrañaga said. “We needed another good road win. We still have some work to do but it certainly helps. People can say what they want about Pitt but they should definitely be considered on the bubble. They’re a very good team and beat them in a very difficult environment.”
Pitt fell to 19-12, 8-9.
McClellan was unable to practice Tuesday but played through the pain Wednesday, though he made just 6 of 16 shots from the field.
McClellan camp up big in the final minutes His three-pointer from the left corner gave UM a 60-56 cushion with 2:07 remaining and his jumper 47 seconds again provided a four-point cushion, 62-58.
“I needed to be out there with my teammates because this was a big game,” said McClellan, who’s averaging 18.7 points in his past seven games. “It was a do-or-die game. That’s how we entered the contest.
“Earlier in the season, I probably would have lost my confidence when I missed the shots early but I kept with it and they started falling.”
Tonye Jekiri, the ACC’s leading rebounder, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards after failing to grab a second-half rebound last Saturday in a loss to North Carolina. Seven of his rebounds came off the offensive glass.
Miami won despite playing played with junior point guard Angel Rodriguez, who sustained a wrist injury Feb. 25 in a win against Florida State then played sparingly against North Carolina.
Manu Lecomte, who replaced Rodriguez in the starting lineup, gave the Hurricanes their first lead since they opened the game with seven straight points when his layup with 9:25 left made it 53-51.
After Pitt tied the score at 53, UM went ahead for good on a tip in by Jekiri with 6:59 to go.
After McClellan’s last-minute heroics, Jekiri added two free throws with 50 seconds left to extend the Canes’ lead to six points at 67-61.
Michael Young led four Pitt scorers in double figures with 22 points. He also had seven rebounds.
“Both teams were fighting for their lives and played really hard,” Young said. “Miami made plays in the second half and we didn’t. They deserved to win the game.”