CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) - An hour before tip-off, several Miami Hurricanes stretching on the court craned their necks toward the scoreboard to watch a few of this season's video highlights. Then they made some more.
Shane Larkin scored 22 points and played smothering defense on Erick Green to help the Hurricanes bounce back from a loss and beat Virginia Tech 76-58 Wednesday night.
Despite a slow start, Miami (23-4, 14-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) never trailed and improved to 13-0 at home. The Hurricanes hold a 2 1/2-game edge over second-place Duke in the ACC and can clinch their first conference basketball championship by beating the Blue Devils on Saturday.
``It's just another game on the schedule,' Larkin said before he and his teammates dissolved in laughter that acknowledged the comment as nonsense.
``It's going to be a blast,' guard Trey McKinney Jones said. ``We beat them here this year, and we beat them there last year, so they're going to be gunning for our heads.'
Miami shook a 10-day scoring slump just in time for Duke. The Hurricanes were coming off a loss at Wake Forest that ended their 14-game winning streak and their bid to go unbeaten in the ACC, and they went 11 minutes without a basket early against Virginia Tech before pulling away.
``A lot of people wanted to see how we would respond to a loss,' Larkin said. ``I think we came out and imposed our will.'
Virginia Tech (12-16, 3-12) fell deeper into last place in the league. Green, the nation's leading scorer at 25.2 points per game, took a painful spill in the first half and scored only 16 - just the third time this season he has been held below 20.
The Hurricanes had averaged only 54.7 points over their past three games and again sputtered at the outset, but led 15-14 despite committing five consecutive turnovers and missing seven straight shots.
The Hokies were having trouble scoring, too.
``We weren't able to capitalize on the offensive end,' Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said, ``and they're too good of a team to hold down for long periods of time. We needed to take advantage of the opportunity we had.'
Then the onslaught began against Tech, an 18-point underdog.
Larkin led the way, and not only because of his defense. On consecutive possessions early in the second half, the point guard hit a one-handed runner, sank a 3-pointer and fed Durand Scott for a fast-break layup and a 49-28 lead.
``We had no answer for him,' Johnson said. ``He's the key to that team.'
Kenny Kadji had 20 points, six rebounds and two blocks, while Trey McKinney Jones added 11 points and three steals. Scott, a senior, was held out of the starting lineup for disciplinary reasons. He missed the first 4 minutes and scored nine points.
Larkin shot 8 for 12, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range, and had six assists.
``Shane had a terrific all-around game,' coach Jim Larranaga said.
The Hurricanes made 50 percent and went 8 for 21 beyond the arc. They also made 22 of 30 free throws and won a league home game by at least 18 points for the fifth time this year.
``We did a good job driving the ball trying to get to the basket,' Kadji said. ``People are now playing us more like a jump-shooting team, and Shane and Durand do a good job of getting to the basket.'
Green gave the Hokies a scare when he hurt his left side losing the ball and falling in the first half. He went to the bench grimacing but popped a pill and was back in the game a minute later.
Green shot 6 for 13, including just one 3-pointer, and had three turnovers.
``They did a really good job on him,' Johnson said. ``They trapped him off ball screens, sent two guys at him and did a really good job.'
Virginia Tech shot 3 for 16 from 3-point range.
The Hurricanes scored on their first five possessions to grab a 9-2 lead. After their offense stalled, they launched a 23-5 run that included 10 points on the final four possessions of the first half for a 38-19 lead.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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