Angel Rodriguez

Angel Rodriguez
Associated Press

Angel Rodriguez, Miami take home Puerto Rico Tipoff title

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Miami’s depth and talent were certainly on display this weekend as they won the Puerto Rico Tipoff, beating No. 22 Butler 85-75 in Sunday’s title game. And it was clear all weekend that their hopes of contending in the ACC this season will ultimately hinge on the play of senior point guard Angel Rodriguez.

Rodriguez produced more positive plays than negative all weekend in San Juan, performing well in his return to the island he calls home. And if Jim Larrañaga’s team is to make a run at their first ACC title since 2013, that will have to be the case as the Hurricanes play in even bigger games when conference play begins.

Rodriguez accounted for 17 points and three assists, but he also had four turnovers with three coming during a second-half stretch in which Butler mounted its rally. The first half for Miami was, when factoring in the caliber of the opponent, as good a half of basketball they’ve played all year. Even better than what they did in the first half of the win over Mississippi State on Thursday, because Butler is a team that will hear its name called Selection Sunday.

The Hurricanes’ length and athleticism caused problems for Butler at both ends of the floor, as the Bulldogs shot 40.7 percent from the field, and Miami was able to shoot 52.9 percent. Half of Miami’s 18 first half field goals were assisted, with Butler’s help side defenders paying the price for being too quick to help in an attempt to take away driving lanes.

Tonye Jekiri accounted for eight points and seven rebounds, finishing with 12 and 12, and backup point guard Ja’Quan Newton scored eight of his 17 and dished out three assists during the first stanza. Whatever Miami wanted to get done they were able to in the first half, leading by as much as 19 and taking a 13-point lead into the break.

Butler improved on both ends of the floor in the second half, and with Miami not playing with the same efficiency the Bulldogs were able to climb back into the game. Managing the game is where point guard play comes in, which is why Rodriguez is the most important piece for Miami as they look to compete with the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Virginia atop the ACC.

When he’s on Rodriguez can be one of the ACC’s top point guards, and by extension the Hurricanes are an ACC contender. But when he struggles, even with their depth the Hurricanes have the appearance of a team that’s a bit scattered on the court. Outside of a few minutes Sunday night Miami got “good Rodriguez” in Puerto Rico, and as a result they head back to the mainland with the Puerto Rico Tipoff trophy in tow.

And if this group is to have a chance of reaching the heights last seen by Shane Larkin and company, that will have to be the case during ACC play as well.

Miami beats up No. 4 Duke, ends nation’s longest home-court win streak

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Entering Tuesday night, Duke had not lost in Cameron Indoor Stadium since March of 2012, a streak that had reached 41 games, the longest in the nation.

That all changed thanks to Miami, as the Hurricanes put up 56 points on the Blue Devils in the second half of a 90-74 win. Angel Rodriguez, who thrives for moments like this, finished with 24 points, five assists and five steals and Manu Lecomte added a career-high 23 points as the Hurricanes hit 10 threes in the win.

Duke got a combined 29 points and 27 boards — 14 offensive — from Jahlil Okafor and Amile Jefferson, but between Okafor’s struggles finishing in the post and the shooting issues that the Duke guards had on Tuesday night, the Blue Devils dug themselves a hole that they couldn’t get out of.

It’s the second straight loss for the Blue Devils, who dropped a road game against N.C. State on Sunday afternoon.

I’ll write more on this tomorrow, but the issue for the Blue Devils is on the defensive end of the floor. They have some major defensive issues that they are going to have to work their way through. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones are both small guards and below-average on-ball defenders, which creates a problem with the way that Duke likes to defend in their half-court man-to-man defense. They consistently have been geting beaten off the dribble far too easily.

It doesn’t help that Okafor is not a rim protector or much help defending pick-and-roll actions. It leaves the guards hung out to dry, and when you’re going against someone as good as Rodriguez of N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey, that becomes a major problem.

Back to Miami, this is a major win for the Hurricanes. Obviously. It’s going to look terrific on their tournament resume come March, and it will help the committee overlook the fact that this group lost to Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky by a combined 41 points in Coral Gables. More than that, this is the kind of confidence-boosting win that can change the course of a team’s season.

They just game the entire ACC the blueprint on how to beat the Blue Devils.

Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over No. 18 Miami

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Eastern Kentucky held a narrow 27-25 lead over No. 18 Miami heading into the locker room on Friday night. To start the second half, the upset alert in Coral Gables turned into a full-on rout, as the Colonels’ 3-point shooting took down the Hurricanes, 72-44, in a wire-to-wire victory.

The two sides traded buckets to begin the second half. What followed was 14 unanswered points by Eastern Kentucky, 12 of which came of 3-pointers. The Colonels hit 5-of-12 threes in the first half, and that shooting didn’t cool down in the last 20 minutes, as they ended up connecting on nine more threes.

Over the previous five games, the Hurricanes limited teams to a combined 26 percent from three, with only Savannah State shooting better than 30 percent. On Friday night, Eastern Kentucky, shot 54 percent shooting from beyond the arc of 14-0f-26 from three. Miami made only 12 field goals through the entire game.

Miami had 11 days off to prepare for this game, and just came out flat, especially in that Eastern Kentucky spurt in the second half, failing to locate the shooters on the floor and letting Isaac McGlone to get three open looks during the 14-0 run. Couple that with Miami’s 29 percent shooting and the 37 points the Colonels scored off turnovers, and you got one of the more surprising upsets of the season.

Timmy Knipp hit five 3-pointer en route to a game-high 19 points, followed by Corey Walden with 18, Eric Stutz with 13 points, nine rebound and five assists and McGlone with 12 off the bench.

Angel Rodriguez went 0-for-6 with one point.

For Miami, it doesn’t get easier before ACC play, the Hurricanes take on Providence on Monday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.