When Miami faced Clemson last season, Shane Larkin wasn't much of a factor in one of his final games coming off the bench for coach Jim Larranaga.
Larkin and the Hurricanes have come a long way since.
The standout guard looks to help No. 3 Miami remain unbeaten in ACC play as it visits the Tigers on Sunday night.
Larkin played only 12 minutes, missed his only field goal attempt and finished with two points as the Hurricanes defeated the Tigers 76-73 on Jan. 18, 2012, to end a five-game losing streak in the series.
The sophomore, who has started 38 of 40 games since, is contributing much more this season for surprising Miami (20-3, 11-0), averaging 13.4 points and 4.3 assists. He is also fourth in the conference shooting 43.7 percent from 3-point range in a team-high 36.0 minutes per game.
Larkin, shooting 61.1 percent (33 for 54) over his last five, hit 9 of 15 from the field and scored 22 points after an early benching to help the Hurricanes earn a 74-68 win at Florida State on Wednesday.
"I just believe that Coach L believes in me a lot and my team believes in me and that's pretty much what's propelled me to have a good year," Larkin told the team's official website. "When everybody believes in you, when you believe in yourself, it doesn't matter what anybody outside says about you.
"As a team, we've just become a lot better and it's made my individual performance that much better."
Larranaga knows Larkin is a major reason Miami has won 12 straight games and is the first ACC team to start 11-0 in conference play since North Carolina did so in 2000-01.
"Shane is just all about winning," said Larranaga, whose Hurricanes missed the NCAA tournament in his first season as coach in 2011-12. "He just wants to win. It doesn't matter if he scores five points or 20 points, he's going to do whatever the team needs him to do to win the game."
While the Hurricanes' success may be surprising to some, center Reggie Johnson said it's simply the product of the team's determination. Miami has a chance to move up another spot in the polls after No. 2 Duke fell at Maryland on Saturday.
"There's no magic. I think we're just hungry," said Johnson, who scored 14 points Wednesday.
The Hurricanes are averaging 78.0 points and shooting 51.4 percent during a seven-game stretch that began with a 90-63 rout of then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 23, but Clemson ranks second in the ACC holding teams to 58.6 points per contest.
The Tigers, though, rank last in the conference in scoring with an average of 62.8 points, and the Hurricanes are tied for third in defensive field goal percentage (38.2).
Clemson (13-11, 5-7) committed only seven turnovers after averaging 16.5 over their previous four games and ended a three-game losing streak with Thursday's 56-53 win at Georgia Tech.
The Tigers, who fell on a last-second 3-pointer in a 58-57 loss to North Carolina State last Sunday, got a late free throw and a block on the game's final shot from Milton Jennings to preserve the victory.
"We stuck together," said Devin Booker, who scored 13 points. "We kept telling each other in the huddles, 'We're not going to let this one slip; we've let too many slip already - and we're just going to stick together and play it out till the end.' And that's what we did."
Miami has lost five of its six all-time trips to Littlejohn Coliseum.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved