Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Marquette rolls Miami in NCAA

WASHINGTON — Julian Gamble stared into space. Kenny Kadji wrapped his head in a towel. Jim Larranaga's arms remained folded with a look of inevitability.

A Miami season of cresting momentum, historic firsts and iconic moments crashed Thursday night in its East Region semifinal. It landed hard and without ceremony.

Third-seeded Marquette crushed the second-seeded Hurricanes 71-61, Miami falling on the wrong side of history. Failing to reach the first Elite Eight in program history meant shooting 35.5 percent, but only thanks to a few late baskets. The 16 first-half points were the fewest Miami had scored in two seasons.

The final score was deceiving. It wasn't that close.

"It's amazing, man," guard Vander Blue said of Marquette's first trip to the Elite Eight since 2003, when Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four. "Everybody said (our) team wasn't any good."

Wade, now a Heat star, tweeted congratulations to Larranaga and the Hurricanes — as well as his alma mater.

"We just shot the ball so poorly," Larranaga said. "When you can't put the ball in the basket, you really have a hard time staying with a team like Marquette."

Miami missed injured center Reggie Johnson, but issues ran deeper than one player.

Miami (29-7) had no answer for Marquette's bruising style not seen in the ACC. The Golden Eagles had a 40-24 edge in interior points, and Miami fell behind by 22 because of miserable perimeter shooting.

UM didn't score consecutive baskets until Durand Scott's first points with 14:29 to play. He and Trey McKinney-Jones combined to miss their first 13 shots as Kadji and Shane Larkin supplied the only hint of offense.

Larkin led Miami with 14 points, followed by Kadji's 11.

A stomach bug hit Larkin Wednesday night, but he played 39 minutes.

"Shane Larkin was throwing up all night, didn't eat this morning," Larranaga said. "(He) didn't eat until the pregame meal. …We didn't have the juice you need to play great basketball."

UM cut it to 51-37 on a Gamble dunk with 8:36 left, but Rion Brown's 3-pointer rimmed out with a chance to trim it further. Marquette (26-8) scored two straight baskets to kill the rally.

Scott and McKinney-Jones combined to miss all 10 first-half shots as the 'Canes went without points in seven crucial minutes.

Playing without Johnson, Miami had fewer big bodies to challenge Marquette big men Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, who created space down low and combined to score 25.

Now the questions begin.

Will Larkin return for his junior season? How will Miami replace five of its six leading scorers who graduate?

"I think what we did this year was lay a foundation of what the program could be like," Larranaga said. "We're not anywhere near where I would like to be."

Larkin said: "It was fun. We started as a little team nobody knew about. We lost to Florida Gulf Coast and nobody believed in us and thought we'd just be at the bottom of the ACC.

"Turned out, it was like being rock stars. It's something you'll never forget."

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