Miami holds off N.C. Central in NIT opener, 75-71
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) When it comes to college basketball along Tobacco Road, everyone knows about Duke and North Carolina.
Most people aren't aware of North Carolina Central.
Miami most assuredly is now, and got all it wanted from Durham's ''other'' team in the opening round of the NIT. Manu Lecomte made 10 of 11 free throws and scored 18 points, Sheldon McClellan added 15 and Miami moved into the second round with a 75-71 win over N.C. Central on Tuesday night.
''We're just very happy to have won the game and move on,'' said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, whose club will host either Alabama or Illinois in the second round on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Tonye Jekiri scored 11 points and Deandre Burnett had 10 for Miami (22-12), who saw a 14-point lead with 6:43 left cut to two on three occasions in the final seconds.
Lecomte, McClellan and Davon Reed all made a pair of free throws in the last half-minute and Miami - which felt it earned an NCAA Tournament berth after going 11-9 in Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament games - finished 23 of 25 from the line.
''That sealed the game for us, free throws,'' McClellan said.
Jordan Parks scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half for N.C. Central (25-8). Nimrod Hilliard scored 19 and Karamo Jawara finished with 10 for the Eagles.
N.C. Central earned its NIT bid after finishing 16-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Eagles lost to Delaware State in their conference tournament semifinals, and coach LeVelle Moton said his team - even after a 25-win season - thinks it merits more respect.
''Where we are it's like the Kardashians,'' Moton said, ''and we're not Kim.''
That said, Miami had all it could do to keep up with the Eagles in the final minute.
''We're fighters,'' Moton said. ''We fought all year.''
Eagles: N.C. Central was one of three Division I men's teams to go undefeated in regular-season conference play, joining Kentucky (SEC) and Murray State (Ohio Valley). ... Parks took only one shot in the first half, then went 10 for 12 after halftime. ... The Eagles have gone 75-23 in the last three seasons.
Hurricanes: Miami has won all four meetings with N.C. Central. ... The Hurricanes have now opened their last five NIT trips with a win, the others in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2012. ... No Miami player took more than nine shots, and the Hurricanes scored 75 against a team that came in having allowed opponents 54.6 points per game - fifth-best in the country entering the day.
Miami's NCAA-bound women's basketball team was honored during a second-half stoppage of play. Katie Meier's club boarded a charter flight for Iowa City, Iowa later in the evening, and will resume preparations there for Friday's first-round game against Washington.
After losing 70 percent of last season's scoring coming into 2014-15, the Hurricanes could have basically all their scoring from this team back in 2015-16. The only player whose eligibility will be exhausted is Joe Thomas, who has a mere 31 points so far this season.