Critics of the Miami Hurricanes will clamor that the team's First Round defeat over the Buffalo Bulls game was too close for comfort, that the team was not convincing enough in their 79-72 victory in order to place themselves in contention for a deep NCAA Tournament run.
However, the Hurricanes' 26-7 season has been predicated on these rigorous performances, the grind-it-out style of this particular win a good sign for the team as it chases a quest through the South Region.
Seniors Lead The Miami Charge
Senior point guard Angel Rodriguez served as the captain of the steady Miami ship throughout the night in Providence, compiling 24 points on 9-11 shooting from the foul line to accompany his seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
The Puerto Rican was brilliant in his performance, providing the Hurricanes with a trio of crucial three-pointers in addition to creating opportunities for his Hurricanes teammates through penetration via the interior of the Buffalo defense.
Rodriguez was not alone in his scoring prowess; with senior companion Sheldon McClellan piling in 20 points on 10-13 shooting from the foul line in addition to five rebounds.
McClellan weaved through the Buffalo defense, or lack thereof, with relative swiftness, driving to the basket with a patient yet decisive mindset to create an array of finishes at the rim.
Three others also recorded double figures for the Hurricanes, with junior forward Kamari Murphy chipping in 11 points to come along with his 13 rebounds and four blocks, guard Devon Reed scoring 10 points with 12 rebounds, and guard Ja'Quan Newton recording 10 points as well.
For the Bulls, freshman Nick Perkins was brilliant off of the bench, scoring 20 points on 4-6 shooting from beyond the arc while providing a plethora of heart tremors for Miami head coach Jim Larranaga.
Sophomore guard Nick Bearden put his impressive ability to handle the rock on full display in front of a national audience, mixing up Rodriguez on multiple occasions en route to 19 points on 7-16 shooting from the field, while junior guard Blake Hamilton recorded 12 points and freshman guard CJ Massinburg put up 11 points off of the bench for the young Bulls.
Physical Approach Stabilizes Hurricanes
Despite shooting 33% from three-point range compared to Buffalo's 39% and turning over the rock on 14 occasions in comparison to the Bulls 10 turnovers, the Hurricanes made their mark on the glass, grabbing 44 total rebounds compared with the Bulls measly 31 while stuffing six Buffalo shot attempts.
If Miami wishes to stay alive, they must control the rebounding balance against either the Arizona Wildcats or the Wichita St. Shockers in the Second Round, as asserting their physicality is a critical hallmark of the Hurricanes attack.
This overwhelming dose of physicality wore down the Bulls as the game waned on in the second half.
After taking a 35-33 advantage into halftime, the Hurricanes jumped out of the break on a 14-5 run buoyed by three-pointers by Rodriguez and Reed, giving them a 49-38 lead with 13:36 remaining.
The Bulls proceeded to cut the deficit to 53-47, however, a jaw-dropping step back three-pointer by Rodriguez with 8:07 left upped the Miami lead to nine points.
A jumper by Bearden with just two minutes remaining limited the gap to 72-68; however, a slew of Miami free throws saved the team from a heartbreaking collapse.