December 04, 2015

Sheldon McClellan's offense was a major reason why Miami beat Charlotte twice in a three-day span last season.

The leading scorer for the No. 21 Hurricanes is becoming a better overall player now, and he'll try to help his club hand the visiting 49ers a fifth straight defeat Saturday.

These teams met last year when the Hurricanes cruised to a 77-58 rout Nov. 23 in the Charleston Classic championship and followed that up with a 77-74 road victory two days later.

McClellan totaled 50 points and 19 rebounds. Miami's star is averaging a career-high 17.0 points, though his rebounding average is down to 2.9 from 4.7.

Coach Jim Larranaga believes that the swingman is much improved on defense.

"Sheldon McClellan is terrific," Larranaga said. "He's an NBA first-round draft pick. His defense, last year, was inconsistent. He's been absolutely terrific from (that) time, he's been so focused on both ends of the court."

Miami (6-1) won 77-72 in overtime at Nebraska on Tuesday in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, bouncing back from last Friday's 78-77 home defeat to Northeastern.

"I think it's great for the team, in general," guard Angel Rodriguez said. "You know, the first couple of games we really didn't face adversity and the last game we faced some and came up short. Coming into this game, we knew that it was not going to be easy for us."

Rodriguez scored 15 points, McClellan had 14 and Davon Reed made a key 3-pointer in overtime for his only basket.

One concern for the Hurricanes was that the Cornhuskers made 9 of 18 3-pointers. Miami is allowing opponents to shoot 41.4 percent on 3s - better than only Wisconsin among major-conference teams.

"We know we have a lot of work to do," Larranaga said. "At least I know we have more to do. I'm not sure the players know."

Charlotte (1-6) shoots 31.5 percent on 3-pointers and is one of the worst shooting teams in the country at 37.4. The 49ers were crushed 109-74 by crosstown rival Davidson on Tuesday.

"We're struggling, we're really struggling and we're playing a tough schedule so that kind of compounds things but we got to keep growing, keep working, and keep getting better," first-year coach Mark Price said. "That's my job as a coach, keep coaching these guys, keep working."

The 49ers did not have leading scorer Bernard Sullivan for last season's meetings with Miami since the forward was out with a concussion. He is healthy now and scored a career-high 20 against the Wildcats.

"Right now it would be real easy for us to have our heads down but we can't do that," said Sullivan, who averages 12.3 points. "We've got a lot more games to play and it's tough but we can still turn it around."

The only player left who started for Charlotte last season against Miami is Braxton Ogbueze, who has totaled eight points on 2-of-19 shooting in his last three games.

Rodriguez had 27 points, 11 assists and six steals last season versus Charlotte, which is one of the worst teams in Division I at defending the three-point line. The 49ers have let opponents shoot 43.7 percent from beyond the arc, and the Hurricanes have connected on 3s at a 41.8 percent clip, ranking in the top 20 nationally.

The 49ers have won four of their last seven against ranked teams.

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