University of Miami

UM men get back on track with win over Savannah State

Angel Rodriguez drives against Khalen Pinkett in the first half of UM's game against Savannah State at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.
Angel Rodriguez drives against Khalen Pinkett in the first half of UM's game against Savannah State at BankUnited Center in Coral Gables on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. el Nuevo Herald

Eager to prove their loss to Green Bay was just a blip in an otherwise perfect season, the 20th-ranked University of Miami Hurricanes rolled over Savannah State 70-39 Monday night at the BankUnited Center.

The Canes (9-1) slipped five spots in the AP rankings on Monday after their 68-55 loss to unranked Green Bay two days earlier. They were determined to get back on track, and the Tigers (3-7) paid the price.

It was the fewest points allowed by UM since a 54-36 victory over Georgia Tech on March 9, 2012. Savannah State scored just 16 points in the second half.

“It was very, very important to get back on the court, good we didn’t have a lot of time to sulk over our loss,” said UM coach Jim Larrañaga.

Savannah State coaches suspected they would find a focused Miami team.

“We knew they were going to be motivated because they let one get away from them at home after riding a tremendous streak,” said Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax, the former Georgetown star.

“We wanted to come out with energy and use those first four minutes, hoping UM would have a bit of a hangover from Green Bay, but apparently they didn’t have that hangover. Miami was ready.”

Hot hand

Angel Rodriguez was especially ready after shooting an uncharacteristic 2 of 15 against Green Bay, including 1 of 6 from three-point range.

The redshirt junior guard wasted no time launching from distance, hitting a three to open Monday’s game. He was fouled attempting another three a few minutes later, made all three free throws as UM took a 10-0 lead.

Rodriguez led UM with 17 points, and was 4 of 9 from beyond the arc. He had four assists, two steals and a block.

He found Sheldon McClellan for a thunderous alley-oop dunk to give Miami a 27-10 lead in the first half. Early in the second half, Rodriguez spotted Tonye Jekiri under the basket and fed him the ball for an easy layup. Later in the game, Rodriguez drove to the basket, drawing two defenders, and then kicked it out to Manu Lecomte, who was all alone atop the key for a three.

When Rodriguez wasn’t running the offense, it was sophomore Lecomte, who is more poised with every game. The Belgian had four three-pointers and scored 15 points. McClellan also had 15, with three assists and two steals.

One of the prettiest passes of the night came from Jekiri, UM’s 7-foot center, who looked like quarterback Brad Kaaya, unleashing a perfect pass the distance of the court to Deandre Burnett, who scored to make it 54-30.

Jekiri came close to a double-double with eight points, nine rebounds and three assists.

“I love to pass the ball,” said Jekiri, a former soccer player. “Coach gets mad at me for passing too much. It’s one of my soccer skills, passing. I like throwing the ball around. I was happy with how Dre ran the floor, so I had to get him the ball.”

Davon Reed, who missed the first eight games with a knee injury, got limited minutes for the second game in a row. He showed, with two steals, a rebound and an assist, why coaches are eager to get him back in the rotation.

Getting a break

The Canes are off the rest of this week to study for finals, and then have a week to get ready for a Dec. 19 home game against Eastern Kentucky.

“I’m very proud of this team,” said Larrañaga. “We’re in the top 25 [in December] for the first time in school history. This is the best record I’ve ever had after 10 games. But we still have a heck of a lot of work ahead of us.”

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