Miami ends 3-game skid by beating Clemson 56-45
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) Tonye Jekiri's dunk gave the Miami Hurricanes a lift.
The aggressive inside move by Jekiri was a welcome surprise to his coach and teammates, and came during a 13-point run that helped beat Clemson 56-45 Sunday.
Jekiri also tied a career high with 16 rebounds with five blocked shots for the Hurricanes. They snapped a three-game losing streak and ended Clemson's four-game winning streak.
The 7-foot Jekiri leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding, but he's sometimes hesitant on offense. So he caught everyone off guard faking a pass in the lane and driving for a dunk to put the Hurricanes ahead 38-28 during their decisive run.
''It was a game-changing play,'' teammate Sheldon McClellan said. ''It picked us up mentally and physically, and made us play harder. I was pretty shocked he did that.''
When Jekiri was asked how it felt to make the dunk, coach Jim Larranaga playfully interrupted.
''You mean like the first time in his career?'' Larranaga said.
''It felt great,'' Jekiri said with a smile. ''I saw myself going so high above the rim.''
While Jekiri had the most memorable basket, McClellan scored 19 points for Miami (15-8, 5-5 ACC). Ivan Cruz Uceda had 10 points off the bench, including three of the Hurricanes' 10 3-pointers.
The Tigers (14-9, 6-5) missed their final 12 shots and finished at 33 percent, including 5 for 20 from 3-point range.
''We didn't play as well as we've been playing the last few times,'' coach Brad Brownell said. ''They played better than we did. We didn't play very well offensively. They had some things to do with that.''
''Our focus defensively was better than it has been in a while,'' he said. ''The end result is we held them to 45 points.''
The Tigers' offensive frustrations culminated trailing by seven points in the final three minutes, when they missed five shots before committing a turnover - all during a single possession.
Donte Grantham and Jordan Roper scored 10 points apiece for the Tigers. They lost despite holding an opponent below 40 percent shooting for the fifth game in a row, the team's longest such streak since at least 1964.
''They won four straight in the ACC, which is tough to do, so they're a great team,'' McClellan said. ''It's a great win for us.''
Miami guard Angel Rodriguez's recent shooting slump continued, but he had his first two baskets of the game, a steal and an assist during the Hurricanes' run that turned a 28-27 deficit into a 40-28 lead. He fed McClellan for an alley-oop dunk that made it 44-30.
Clemson cut the deficit to 46-43 before Manu Lecomte made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions - his only baskets of the game.
Clemson: Leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame took just five shots and had only six points, seven below his average.
Miami: The Hurricanes won on Shane Larkin bobblehead night, with the former Miami guard in attendance and mugging for the cheering crowd during a timeout.
The Hurricanes went 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal in the first half, but Cruz Uceda made three consecutive 3-pointers to put them ahead 18-15.
Larranaga wore blue in honor of legendary former North Carolina coach Dean Smith and asked his assistant coaches to do the same. Smith died Saturday at age 83.
Clemson plays host to No. 10 Notre Dame on Tuesday.
Miami plays at Wake Forest on Wednesday.