With Angel Rodriguez sidelined due to injury, Sheldon McClellan appearing too banged up to play, Miami playing less-than-clutch basketball as of late and Pittsburgh a force at home this season, the Hurricanes’ shot at an NCAA Tournament berth appeared to be in trouble.
Instead, McClellan came correct with 20 points, sophomore guard Davon Reed stepped in for Rodriguez, delivering a career-high 19 points and Miami topped Pittsburgh, 67-63 in a must-win game.
”I feel like it was a do or die game,” McClellan said. ”That’s how we entered the contest.”
The Canes’ gain was the Panthers’ loss, slipping to 19-12 on the season, despite 22 points from Michael Young and 14 points from Jamel Artis—who missed a game-tying three-pointer with :19 that would’ve tied the game.
Miami and Pittsburgh are both vying to be one of the last ACC representatives in the NCAA Tournament and both have one final regular season game before attempting to shake things up at the conference tourney in Greensboro, NC next week.
The road team’s credit, the Canes knocked down 15-of-18 free throws—with McClellan going 7-of-8 and setting the tone. McClellan also played the role of closer, nailing a three-pointer in the final three minutes when Pittsburgh pulled to within one and knocking down a long two-pointer after Young’s hook shot a on the previous play brought the Panthers to within two.
Miami led by seven early, but trailed 33-29 at the half. The Hurricanes eventually went ahead for good at the 6:59 mark after a tip-in from Tonye Jenkins, while the Panthers lost their first game of the season when leading at the half.
Some other factoids and tidbits; Miami ended a three-game losing streak to Pittsburgh and got their first road win against the Panthers since the 2000 season, when both squads were members of the Big East Conference.
The Hurricanes also kept turnovers in check, committing seven on the night and out rebounded Pittsburgh (33-30). Miami also had three players in double-figures for the 12th time this season, while McClellan scored in double-figures in an eight-consecutive game.
Next up for Miami, a regular-season-ending Saturday showdown at Virginia Tech (12:00 p.m. ET). The Canes hosted the Hokies mid-Feburary and rolled, 76-52 against the ACC’s cellar-dweller. Miami is currently sixth in the overall conference standings, where it will stay with a win over Virginia Tech.
A loss to the Hokies, coupled with a North Carolina State win over Syracuse and the Canes would become a seven-seed.