The University of Miami men’s basketball team is 5-0 and headed to Sunday night’s championship game of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California, thanks to Zach Johnson’s spectacular put-back dunk just before the buzzer of Friday’s 78-76 semifinal win over Fresno State.
The Hurricanes will play Seton Hall (3-2), which beat Hawaii in the other semifinal. Sunday’s final is at 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2). Seton Hall is led by junior guard Myles Powell, who scored 40 points in the tournament opener against Grand Canyon and had 19 against Hawaii. The game will be a reunion for UM coach Jim Larranaga and Seton Hall assistant coach Tony Skinn, who played point guard on Larranaga’s George Mason 2006 Final Four team.
Johnson, a graduate transfer who led the Hurricanes with 24 points off the bench Friday, was especially thrilled with his game-winning basket because it made up for an untimely foul he had just committed on three-point shooter Deshon Taylor, who made all his free throws to tie the game at 76-76.
UM sophomore guard Chris Lykes pulled up for a three atop the key on the Canes’ final possession, missed, and then Johnson flew up to the rim untouched from the left side and slammed the ball in with 0.2 seconds remaining. The Miami bench erupted as Johnson landed from his dunk. Johnson, a Norland High grad, joined the Canes this season after four years at Florida Gulf Coast.
“I thought Chris had a great look, there were about six or eight seconds left and I knew that our best chance to win, if he missed it, was to get on the offensive board,” Johnson said. “I took off, the ball just bounced my way and I put it back in.”
Johnson said the Canes are excited about Sunday’s final.
“A lot of teams don’t get to play for championships throughout the season and to have the opportunity to play in this championship is great for our team and our program and it’s a good feeling.”
Miami was still without forward Dewan Hernandez, who did not make the trip. He is being held out of competition while his eligibility status is examined by the school and NCAA. No word on his return.