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Angel Rodriguez scores 28 as Miami bounces Wichita State

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange   |   March 19, 2016 at 5:44 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Angel Rodriguez, Miami's 5-foot-11 redshirt senior guard, put on a show Saturday.

"I told the TV audience that they should rename the Dunkin Donuts Center the Angel Rodriguez Park. He just owned the place," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after Rodriguez scored a career-high 28 points as the third-seeded Hurricanes built an early 21-point lead and then staved off the 11th-seeded Wichita State Shockers 65-57 to move into Thursday night's South region Sweet 16 game in Louisville, Ky.

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"He was so focused, so confident, right from the very beginning of the game," Larranaga said. "He did it at the defensive end of the floor, he did it at the offensive end of the floor. He did it with his scoring, he did it with his passing. He just had one of those games where he was totally locked in, very focused on doing what we needed done."

Rodriguez, who came in averaging 12.1 points per game, had 16 in the first 10:22 as the Hurricanes, who will face the winner of Sunday's Villanova-Iowa game Thursday, built a 27-6 lead. Rodriguez then went quiet, but re-emerged after the Shockers charged back and took a 43-42 lead -- their only lead of the game, with 10:25 remaining.

Right off the Ron Baker 3-pointer that put Wichita ahead, Rodriguez, who also had five assists and four steals (to go with seven turnovers), hit Sheldon McClellan with a lob for a slam that gave Miami the lead for good. Rodriguez then took over down the stretch, putting the game away and sending the 'Canes to their first Sweet 16 since 2013 -- when Rodriguez was still at Kansas State.

"I was a little surprised that they came back from 21, and they got the lead," said Rodriguez, who said he could feel a big game coming during warmups, "but at the same time I think it was great for our team to be tested in such a way at this point of the season -- because from now on, it's going to be a dogfight no matter who we play."

Larranaga said Rodriguez tends to play better against tougher competition -- and it doesn't get much tougher than Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Wichita's senior guard pair. Neither of them had a very good game on Saturday, but the Shockers (26-9) battled back while playing their third game in five nights, as Miami (27-7) proved tough when it had to be.

"They didn't panic," said Larranaga, who played his college ball at Providence College. "Sheldon McClellan just kept ... I will say in a loud, very demonstrative voice, 'We're not losing this game, we're not losing this game. Pick it up, let's play, come on, go after these guys. We're not losing this game.'"

They didn't -- and Miami avoided becoming the 14th higher seed in the first 33 games of the tournament to lose.

Miami's Davon Reed hit two big baskets, one a 3-pointer, and added a key block at the other end and Miami reacted to Wichita State's 11-0 run with a 13-5 spurt that gave the Hurricanes the lead.

The Shockers trailed by just two with 2:41 left before Rodriguez banked in a runner as the shot clock expired to give the 'Canes a 57-53 lead with 2:05 left -- Wichita coach Gregg Marshall calling it "a circus shot." Rodriguez then drained a 3-pointer to lift the lead to seven and iced the game at the foul line.

Wichita State was guilty of just 12 turnovers in its wins over Vanderbilt and Arizona but coughed it up 10 times in the first half Saturday, 15 times in the game -- four each by VanVleet and Baker.

"To start the game, Rodriguez pretty much just kicked my butt and outplayed me to start the game," said VanVleet, who scored 12 points while he and Baker both went 4-of-12 from the floor. "Gotta give him credit -- he set the tone early and got it going.

"We fought back, but you dig yourself a hole that deep, it's kind of hard to get out of."

Rodriguez hit nine of his 11 shots from the floor and overcame seven turnovers with five assists and four steals.

McLellan had 18 points and Reed 10 for the Hurricanes.

Shaq Morris also had 12 and Baker 11 for the Shockers, but Baker said, "I feel like I disappointed my teammates, my family."

NOTES: The loss kept Wichita State from its third trip to the Sweet 16 in the last four years. ... It was 10 years ago that now-Miami coach Jim Larranaga took George Mason to the Final Four. ... Arizona coach Sean Miller on Wichita State G Fred VanVleet: "I told him after the game, please don't anybody tell you you're not going to play in the NBA. We lived that last year with TJ McConnell. That guy (VanVleet) will play in the NBA, and he'll be there a long, long time." ... Miami G Angel Rodriguez notched his fifth game of 17 or more points in the last seven games. ... The 19 points scored by Wichita State in the first half were both the fewest scored by the Shockers and the fewest allowed by the Hurricanes this season.

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