Miami dominates No. 16 Utah to move into Puerto Rico Tip-Off Final

There have been plenty of really strong performances throughout the early portion of the season. But through the first four games of its season, it’s undeniable that one of the most impressive teams in the country has been the Miami Hurricanes.

Following a 26-point demolition of Mississippi State on Thursday, the Canes went out and did the same thing again on Friday and dominated No. 16 Utah to the tune of a 90-66 victory. The win moves Miami into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game against Butler on Sunday.

The Canes got 27 points from Sheldon McClellan, but the star in this one was Tonye Jekiri, the 6-11 center who was facing one of the toughest matchups of his career in Utah center Jakob Poeltl.

Jekiri was the better player from the opening whistle tonight, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for the Hurricanes against the Austrian big man. He continually used his lower body advantage on Poeltl well, and also was a massive factor in Miami’s effectiveness defending the pick-and-roll with his quick feet and length. Poeltl himself wasn’t bad, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds, but this one was all Jekiri, who put himself on the map in front of a lot of NBA scouts tonight.

More importantly though, this was a Hurricane performance against a Utah team that had looked quite impressive so far, especially on the offensive end of the floor. The Canes couldn’t necessarily slow down the Utes’ 3-point barrage, but they won a ton of extra possessions by forcing 16 turnovers and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds. They took advantage of those possessions on the offensive end as well, scoring 11 points off of those second-chance offensive rebounds and 21 points off of the turnovers. Compare those numbers to Utah’s five points off of offensive rebounds and four points off of turnovers, and there’s your difference in the game right there.

The Hurricanes move on to the championship game in Puerto Rico, where they’ll face off against another one of the more impressive teams in the country so far this year in Butler. If the Canes play like this again on Sunday, it’ll make for one heck of a championship game against another deep, experienced team in Butler. The Bulldogs certainly have the offensive firepower and experience to keep up with the Canes, as Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, and the rest of the Butler squad have had an excellent start to the season. The Bulldogs scored 144 points on The Citadel, followed by a 34-point win over Missouri State and a solid win over Temple on Friday morning.

That has potential to be one of the more fun games of the early portion of the season, and it’ll be played at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Jim Larranaga has to be happy with the way Miami has played thus far in the season. (USATSI)
Jim Larranaga has to be happy with the way Miami has played thus far in the season. (USATSI)

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