By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) – The only time Miami coach Jim Larranaga could recall taking off his suit jacket during a game was about 20 years ago, back when he was at Bowling Green.
That is, until Wednesday night.
Larranaga’s first technical foul in years worked wonders.
Sheldon McClellan scored 21 points, Tonye Jekiri finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds and Miami shook off a slow start to easily beat Virginia Tech 76-52 to help improve its NCAA tournament resume.
“It definitely boosted us when Coach took his jacket off,” McClellan said. “Seemed he got a little hot.”
So did his team.
Angel Rodriguez added 11 points for the Hurricanes (17-9, 7-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who went on a 17-4 run to open the second half, then put the game away with an 18-5 spurt after Larranaga got upset with a couple of calls that coincided with Virginia Tech seeming poised to get back into the contest.
“Anybody who has observed me on the sideline knows that my message to the team is that I want to stay cool, calm and collected, because I want them to be cool, calm and collected on the court,” Larranaga said.
Adam Smith scored 15 for Virginia Tech (10-16, 2-11), which made its first three shots – then missed 23 of its next 30. Devin Wilson and Justin Bibbs each finished with 11 for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams also got hit with a second-half technical, his coming not long before Larranaga’s. The difference was, his didn’t lead to any real spark.
“We posed no resistance in the second half whatsoever,” Williams said.
Nor did they on the backboards, where the Hokies were outrebounded 40-19 – barely exceeding Jekiri’s total.
“He was dominant,” Williams said. “He almost had as many rebounds as we did.”
After Virginia Tech scored six straight – coinciding with when Larranaga got his technical, then removed his jacket and implored the crowd to get louder by waving his arms, as did McClellan – the Hurricanes put the game away.
McClellan made a 3-pointer from the corner near the Miami bench, Rodriguez added a layup and before long the Hurricanes were leading 64-41.
Just like that, trailing for 10 minutes in the first half seemed long forgotten.
“From that 12-minute mark on, and I told the team afterward, I saw the team that we could be,” Larranaga said.
Virginia Tech: Malik Muller sported a large bandage over his left eye for most of the game, after getting banged up going after a loose ball in the early going. Williams said he expects Muller will need stitches. … The Hokies lost their 17th straight road game. They haven’t won on an opponent’s floor since Dec. 8, 2013 – against Miami. … It was Virginia Tech’s 38th loss since the start of 2013-14; among power-conference schools, only Boston College and South Florida have lost more games in that span.
Miami: The Hurricanes won back-to-back games for the third time since starting the season 8-0. … Miami has now matched its win total from last season, with at least six games left to play. … Miami is now 81-10 at Bank United Center when scoring at least 75 points.
Rodriguez might have finally broken out of his scoring slump in the second half. He was scoreless at the break then scored 11 in a 10-minute span of the second half. It was just the second double-digit game in the last seven for Rodriguez – who scored at least 10 points 15 times in the season’s first 19 contests.
Jekiri became the 11th player in Division I this season to have a game with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds while shooting at least 80 percent. He finished 6 for 7 from the floor, four of those makes being dunks.
Virginia Tech: At N.C. State on Saturday.
Miami: At Louisville on Saturday.
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer