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Miami beats Illinois to make NCAA Sweet 16

Rion Brown, who finishes one shy of his career high with 21 points, celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer in the second half as Miami fights off Illinois and reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.

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Rion Brown, who finishes one shy of his career high with 21 points, celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer in the second half as Miami fights off Illinois and reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000.

AUSTIN, Texas — Shane Larkin hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with a minute left and Miami gained possession on a ball knocked out of bounds that probably should have gone to Illinois, helping the Hurricanes hold on for a 63-59 victory Sunday night to advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

After Larkin's first field goal in about 91/2 minutes, D.J. Richardson missed a 3-pointer. In the fight for the rebound, the ball appeared to ricochet off the hands of Miami's Kenny Kadji out of bounds. But the Hurricanes kept the ball, and Durand Scott hit two free throws after that.

"You saw the same video I did," first-year Illinois coach Jim Groce said. He added, "hard game to officiate … 50-50 calls are hard sometimes."

Miami (29-6) is in the Sweet 16 for the second time and is one of three schools from Florida to advance that far, a first for the state and the most of any state in this year's tournament. The second-seeded Hurricanes play Marquette in an East Region semifinal in Washington, D.C., on Thursday night.

"Win and advance, lose and go home," coach Jim Larranaga said. "So we are happy we are advancing in the Sweet 16. That is a tremendous accomplishment. These kids have been great. We had a very hard time scoring against their defense."

Larkin, the only nonsenior starter for Miami and the ACC player of the year, finished with 17 points. Rion Brown had 21 with five 3s, and Kadji added 10 points and eight rebounds.

Brandon Paul had 18 points for No. 7 seed Illinois (23-13).

Larranaga had said he planned to have more fun than any other coach in the tournament, and he wanted his team to do the same.

It is, but it had to fight to the end — and get what looked like a big break — to finish off the Illini.

Brown and Larkin both had two free throws in the final 16 seconds, between a tip-in by Nnanna Egwu.

Before Larkin's go-ahead 3, he hadn't scored since 10:29 was left in the game. He put Miami up 38-37 when he drove to the basket, cradled the ball to his side with his arm while getting fouled, then made the shot. He missed the free throw, but the Hurricanes got the rebound and Scott drove for a one-handed dunk.

Less than two minutes later, the lead was 46-39 after Brown's 3 from the right corner in front of the UM bench that sent his teammates and the Hurricanes fans nearby in a frenzy.

Miami beats Illinois to make NCAA Sweet 16 03/24/13 [Last modified: Monday, March 25, 2013 1:27am]
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