November 26, 2015

It wouldn't be hard at all to make the case that no team has been more impressive this season than Miami.

Clearly, the voters in the AP poll were impressed.

After bursting into the national rankings, the No. 15 Hurricanes hope to avoid a letdown Friday when they return home to face Northeastern.

Few noticed when Miami (5-0) rolled through its first three games, but consecutive victories over ranked opponents to win the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship were too much to ignore.

The Hurricanes became just the sixth team to be unranked one week and rise to at least No. 15 in the following week's poll. Their current ranking is the highest ever for the program during the month of November.

The short trip to Puerto Rico proved very beneficial for Miami, which opened the tournament with a 26-point rout of Mississippi State before coasting to a 90-66 victory over then-No. 16 Utah. The championship game was a little tougher, but the Hurricanes hung on to beat then-No. 22 Butler 85-75 on Sunday.

Angel Rodriguez scored 19 points and Ja'Quan Newton added a career-high 17 for Miami, which went 20 of 22 at the foul line after halftime and 22 of 24 overall.

The Hurricanes have outscored their last four opponents by 19.0 points per game while shooting 54.7 percent, including 50.6 from 3-point range.

''It's only November,'' coach Jim Larranaga said. ''Teams are going to get better. The really great teams are going to improve dramatically between now and March. And we want to be one of those teams. ... Whether we're ranked or not, ranked is not the motivation.''

Rodriguez was named tournament MVP after averaging 13.7 points on 54.2 percent from the field. Senior guard Sheldon McClellan also made the all-tournament team, connecting on 60.7 percent of his shots while scoring 17.7 per game.

Center Tonye Jekiri appears poised to become more of an offensive presence, averaging 13.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in Puerto Rico. He was named ACC Player of the Week on Monday.

McClellan (17.4), Rodriguez (12.8), Newton (11.8) and Jekiri (10.2) are joined in double-figure scoring by Davon Reed (10.8) and Ivan Cruz Uceda (10.0).

Fast starts are not uncommon for the Hurricanes, who are 5-0 for the second straight year. They won last season's Charleston Classic, only to return home and suffer losses to Green Bay and Eastern Kentucky.

Rodriguez said players were already bringing that up after winning Sunday.

''That to me is truly more special than just simply winning this tournament,'' he said, ''to know that the guys are hungry for more.''

Northeastern (4-1) is hoping for a better result after its four-game win streak was snapped with Sunday's 67-61 loss to Miami (Ohio).

David Walker scored 21 points and Quincy Ford added 14 for the Huskies, who had a season-high 18 turnovers.

Walker is the focal point of the offense, averaging 20.8 points to rank second in the Colonial Athletic Association. The senior guard is shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 45.5 from long range.

This contest closes a four-game road trip for Northeastern, loser of 19 straight to ranked opponents since knocking off No. 2 Louisville in 1986.

Miami has won both meetings against Northeastern, the most recent in 2000.

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