November 24, 2014

Miami coach Jim Larranaga knew before last week's success that he had a squad capable of accomplishing some lofty goals - even if others weren't so sure.

There will be no sneaking up on its next opponent, though.

The 17th-ranked Hurricanes look to continue their strong start Tuesday night when they visit Charlotte for a second straight meeting with the 49ers.

Miami (5-0) began the season unranked, but Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez scored a career-high 24 points in last Monday's 69-67 win over then-No. 8 Florida to snap the Gators' 33-game home winning streak.

The Hurricanes then rolled through the Charleston Classic, winning three games by an average of 22.3 points after beating Charlotte 77-58 on Sunday. They're off to their best start since winning their first eight of 2009-10.

"This team is very, very skilled at a number of different positions," Larranaga said. "And they showed that in this tournament."

Sheldon McClellan scored 19 in a championship game Miami controlled most of the way.

"It's a great win for us and gives us a lot of confidence," McClellan said. "We're going to get better each game."

Rodriguez is averaging 16.6 points in his first five games with Miami and was named the tournament's MVP after sitting out all of last season. He realizes the scheduling quirk of facing the 49ers in back-to-back games could present a tougher challenge, especially with this contest being on Charlotte's home floor.

Miami is completing an 11-day road trip on which it plays five games in nine days across three different states.

"This is something different, but at the same time it's a great test for our team," Rodriguez said. "Charlotte is no joke. They're very physical and play hard and compete. Whatever happened (Sunday) doesn't mean it will happen in their house. If we go in there and say we just beat them by (19), then we're going to get our butts beat."

Charlotte coach Alan Major will get a second chance to slow Rodriguez and the Hurricanes' offense. The 49ers (3-1) lived dangerously in Charleston, needing double overtime to beat Penn State before edging South Carolina 65-63 in the semifinals.

The loss to Miami gives Major at least a look at what to expect Tuesday.

"We've got a good feel for their personnel and what they like to do," Major said. "But I'm more worried about what we're doing."

He's likely more concerned with the health of Braxton Ogbueze, who scored 14 points before suffering a right knee injury in the first half against the Hurricanes. He did not return, and his status for this game is unclear.

It would be a major blow for the 49ers should the Florida transfer not be able to play. Center Mike Thorne Jr. did his best to make up for Ogbueze's absence Sunday, scoring 19 points to give him an average of 17.3 for the tournament.

"We have some things we need to get better at," Major said. "Mike Thorne was terrific and played with a lot of confidence. I thought he sustained his level of play and did a good job in the tournament."

Miami has won the last three meetings, including a 76-61 victory in the last matchup in Charlotte on Dec. 22, 2011, during Larranaga's first season as Hurricanes coach.

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