Maybe Jim Larranaga has rediscovered his old Verizon Center magic.
Sheldon McClellan scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, and Angel Rodriguez added 19 to lead 11th-ranked Miami to an 88-82 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.
Third-seeded Miami (25-6) will play second-seeded and fourth-ranked Virginia at 9:30 p.m. Friday in the second semifinal. Virginia (25-6) dispatched Georgia Tech 72-52.
Davon Reed added 17 points for Miami, Tonye Jekiri had 11 before fouling out with 5 minutes, 10 seconds remaining, and Ja’Quan Newton finished with 10. Sixth-seeded Virginia Tech (19-14) was led by Seth Allen with 31 points, including a 17-of-18 effort at the free-throw line that kept the Hokies in the game in the late stages. Zach LeDay and Jalen Hudson had 12 points apiece.
Miami won the 2013 ACC tournament under coach Larranaga, and this is the 10-year anniversary of George Mason’s Cinderella Final Four run with Larranaga at the helm. George Mason beat Wichita State and Connecticut in the East Regional at the Verizon Center to advance to the Final Four at Indianapolis.
However, Miami lost to Marquette and Buzz Williams, now the Virginia Tech coach, in the 2013 NCAA regional semifinal at the Verizon Center. But Williams could not duplicate the effort.
Just to drive the notion home, Miami worked out at George Mason this week.
Miami had a hot shooting touch all night, hitting almost 57 percent from the field and 44.4 percent on 3-point attempts, 6-of-9 in the second half. McClellan and Rodriguez each went 3-of-6 from long range.
Miami led 33-32 at halftime, and the lead exchanged hands four times during the opening minutes of the second half before the Hurricanes surged in front on their long-range shooting. Rodriguez sank two 3-pointers, McClellan also had one, and Rodriguez ran down an errant pass for an easy layup for a 49-38 lead, prompting a Virginia Tech timeout with 15:44 remaining.
The lead got as big as 15 points at 59-44 when the Hurricanes hit six shots in a row, capped by McClellan’s 3-pointer with 12:18 to play. The Hokies closed to within eight points with about five minutes left, helped by a costly technical foul on Jekiri, Miami’s 7-foot center.
Jekiri and Kerry Blackshear got tangled up scrambling for a rebound on the floor, and Jekiri was called for a foul. When he disputed the call, he received the technical, which disqualified him as his fifth foul.
Allen and Blackshear each made two free throws to narrow the margin to 70-62 with 5:10 to play. The Hokies would get within six points with 1:19 to play, but they never got closer as the Hurricanes hit 13 of 15 free throws in the final 1:27 to keep them at bay.
The Hokies got off to a quick start, hitting five of their first seven shots, and getting six straight points by Hudson, who scored 10 in the first half, helped Virginia Tech to a 10-5 advantage.
However, Reed canned all four of his shots, including two 3-pointers, and had 10 of Miami’s first 19 points as the Hurricanes stormed in front 19-14 by the second media timeout.
Both teams were shooting well, but six turnovers by the Hokies helped Miami to 12 points and a 23-16 lead by the 8:50 mark.
McClellan’s baseline drive at the 4:01 mark gave Miami its first double-figure lead at 31-21. However, the Hurricanes gave away almost all of that lead by halftime with a rash of turnovers and fouls. Allen, who had 10 points by halftime, contributed four free throws in an 11-2 run, and Blackshear’s two free throws with 1:14 left reduced Virginia Tech’s halftime deficit to 33-32.
Miami missed three of four shots during the Hokies’ run and committed three turnovers.