Aside from perhaps Michigan point guard Trey Burke, Miami’s Shane Larkin has proven himself to be the biggest breakout star at that position this season. Sunday night with his team’s postseason fate on the line, Larkin took a fearless step-back three-pointer with 1:04 to play and nailed it to give his team a two-point lead, only fitting for a player in the midst of the biggest season of his career.
That Larkin three and his two free throws with 15.6 seconds to play held off a pesky and talented Illinois team, 63-59, at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, to punch the Hurricanes’ ticket to the Sweet 16. He finished with 17 points.
Larkin added five assists, the beneficiary of many of those being Miami guard Rion Brown, who led the Hurricanes in scoring with 21 points off the bench.
But this win will not be without some controversy. With 42 seconds to play, the ball went out of bounds as the two teams fought for a rebound, appearing to touch Miami forward Kenny Kadji before falling to the baseline. To Illinois’ dismay, it was ruled Miami ball and is considered a non-reviewable play.
Miami showed again Sunday what it has been out to prove all season. Regardless of the pace that a team tries to play at, the Hurricanes can adapt and often find a way to win. Illinois wanted to slow the game down and play at a Big Ten pace, but Miami reverted to the same style of play that won it games in the middle of ACC play against Clemson and Virginia.
Though the Hurricanes only shot 40 percent from the floor, they were able to grab 12 offensive rebounds and score on second-chance opportunities. Miami now moves on to play Marquette, a team that has squeaked by in two close wins over Davidson and Butler. The Golden Eagles have been led by clutch performances in both by guard Vander Blue.