SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Two games into the Puerto Rico Tipoff, Miami’s veteran bunch is knocking down shots, converting turnovers into important baskets and romping to blowout victories with ease.
Sheldon McClellan scored 27 points to help the Hurricanes roll past No. 16 Utah 90-66 on Friday night, sending them on to the championship round.
Tonye Jekiri added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Hurricanes (4-0), who took control early and never let the Utes make a serious push to climb back in it. Miami shot 53 percent and turned away every spurt from Utah in another dominant showing in San Juan.
“They know each other, they play very well together, they share the ball very well,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said of his senior-led group.
No argument there. Their numbers so far in Puerto Rico — 55-percent shooting, 41 percent from 3-point range, 49 points off turnovers — say plenty about how sharp the Hurricanes have been.
“We’re not really caught up in what people want to rank us and things like that,” McClellan said. “We’re taking each game one at a time and just being aggressive on both ends of the court.”
Jordan Loveridge scored 18 points for Utah (3-1), which had its own good-shooting performance and even managed to slow Miami’s torrid shooting a bit after halftime. But the Hurricanes had a 23-4 edge in points off turnovers, converting time and time again to earn a date with No. 22 Butler in the Tipoff final.
The Hurricanes put the Utes away with a 9-0 burst — ending with a 3-pointer and a pitch-ahead layup from McClellan off a turnover — for a 75-55 lead with 5:17 left.
Utah found no real way to slow the Hurricanes, who shot 59 percent in the opening half and got a 3-pointer from James Palmer just before halftime for a 46-32 lead at the break. And the frustration finally boiled over for coach Larry Krystkowiak, who picked up a quick technical foul after springing up to protest a no-call on Jakob Poeltl’s drive with 13:32 left.
It was quite the encore for a team that started its stay in Puerto Rico by flirting with the Tipoff’s scoring record in Thursday night’s 105-79 win against Mississippi State.
The Utes shot 50 percent and made eight 3-pointers, but they committed 16 turnovers and couldn’t keep Jekiri and the Hurricanes off the boards. They also got to the line 15 times, 10 fewer than Miami.
“Our team needs to get tougher collectively and individually,” Krystkowiak said. “I’ve always thought the aggressor wins when it comes to the foul line and we pretty much got punched in the mouth and we didn’t do a very good job of responding.”
Miami: Angel Rodriguez, playing in his native San Juan, had 11 points and four assists. … Miami made 9 of 17 3-pointers and 19 of 25 free throws. … The Hurricanes committed just seven turnovers.
Utah: Poeltl scored 16 points and was the only other Utah player to reach double figures. … Utah finished with just four offensive rebounds and five second-chance points. … Utah shot 55 percent in the first half.
“TOO MUCH STRAIN”
Krystkowiak sounded more bothered by the turnovers than his team’s defensive play.
“You can’t defend turnovers,” he said. “It just puts too much strain on your basketball squad to have to do that and it’s really hard to overcome.”
Takeaways aside, Larranaga noted teams don’t usually win games like this after letting a team shoot 50 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range.
“For us to be where we want to be in this season,” he said, “our defense has to improve.”
Miami: Takes on No. 22 Butler on Sunday in the championship game.
Utah: Faces Temple on Sunday in the third-place game.
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