University of Miami

Jim Larrañaga says effort, inspiration have led Canes to NIT Final Four

UM coach Jim Jim Larrañaga is shown with guard James Palmer during the Canes’ 75-71 victory over North Carolina Central in the NIT on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla.
UM coach Jim Jim Larrañaga is shown with guard James Palmer during the Canes’ 75-71 victory over North Carolina Central in the NIT on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, in Coral Gables, Fla. AP

The University of Miami men’s basketball team’s execution hasn’t been great at times during its three NIT victories.

But Hurricanes’ coach Jim Larrañaga believes his team’s attitude toward playing in the NIT is the main reason they earned a trip to New York.

“At practice that Monday [after the NCAA selection], you can usually see whether your team has energy or if they’re still bummed,” Larrañaga said. “You saw Colorado State, their guys were still bummed and they got beat that Tuesday right away.

“We had energy and we were ready to play. We could have gone into the NIT saying, ‘oh, we didn’t get invited to the NCAA Tournament,’ and cried over spilled milk. This team didn’t. We went in saying ‘let’s go play our best basketball now in March and let’s cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden.’”

The Hurricanes (24-12) are two wins from making that goal a reality as they continued to prepare Friday for their first-ever appearance in the NIT Final Four.

UM’s effort during the tournament is what Larrañaga said has helped it overcome injuries to key players such as Angel Rodriguez and subpar efforts such as it had against Richmond in the quarterfinal round.

“I asked the players after the game, ‘how did you do that?’ Larrañaga said. “The answer was attitude. They just kept plugging away and would not be denied. Our team had one of those games where we easily could have lost and just said we had a bad night shooting. They didn’t. They found a way.”

The Hurricanes shot only 31.1 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three-point range, yet still managed to rally from an 18-point deficit.

“Excitement and energy allowed us not to look at our mistakes and to keep trying to figure it out,” Larrañaga said. “We did find a way. We wouldn’t have if our attitude wouldn’t have been that way. We’re playing with the best attitude possible, and that’s huge.”

The Hurricanes, who play Temple (26-10) in a semifinal 7 p.m. Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, may have to continue to manage without Rodriguez. According to Larrañaga, Rodriguez is still bothered by a nagging wrist injury that has kept him out the past two games. Rodriguez re-injured it during Miami’s NIT opening round win against North Carolina-Central.

Guard Manu Lecomte also hurt his knee and reserve guard Ja’Quan Newton hurt his thumb against Richmond. Larrañaga said they would continue to evaluate both in the coming days.

“My guess is yes they will be ready to play,” Larrañaga said.

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