AUSTIN, Texas -- Whatever the seed, the Miami Hurricanes opened the NCAA Tournament in national championship-contender fashion.
The second-seeded Hurricanes breezed to a victory over 15th-seeded Pacific, 78-49, on Friday at the Frank Erwin Center.
Miami (28-6), which won the ACC regular season and tournament championships only to receive a No. 2 seed in the East Region, will have its chance to prove it is a legitimate contender.
To open the tournament, the Hurricanes toyed with the Big West Conference tournament champion, as bigger, stronger Miami took care of a formality. Shane Larkin
finished with 10 points and nine assists, leading the charge in the first half. Durand Scott
heated up in the second half, scoring 18 to finish with a game-high 21.
Miami put its stamp on this one midway through the first 20 minutes.
Pacific (22-13) went more than seven minutes without scoring in the first half, a stretch that included 11 straight missed shots and air balls on consecutive possessions.
Tiger forward Khalil Kelley
finally broke the drought with a dunk on an assist from Colin Beatty.
But Miami, thanks to its stingy defense, took control during Pacific's scoreless stretch.
Larkin started a 14-0 run with two free throws and later went to the basket for a lay-in and completed a three-point play. Miami guard Rion Brown added a 3-pointer on an assist from Larkin during the run.
By the time Kelley got Pacific back on the board, the Tigers trailed, 22-9, and wouldn't get back to within 10 points.
Following the key run, Larkin and Brown each hit 3-pointers and the Hurricanes' big men found easy baskets inside, as Pacific struggled to deal with Miami's size and athleticism.
Hurricane center Julian Gamble flipped an interior pass to Reggie Johnson, who hit a flat-footed layup, and Tonye Jekiri had a put back and a layup on an assist from Larkin to help Miami stretch its lead to 36-13 with barely over a minute left in the first half.
Pacific reserve guard Markus Duran hit a 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer, but it was much too little, much too late as Miami led, 40-19.
NOTES: No. 2-seeded Miami is the first team to win the ACC regular season title and the conference tournament championship in the same season, and then not earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. "We play at our best when we have a chip on our shoulder," Miami senior center Julian Gamble said before the tournament. ... Pacific coach Bob Thomason, who is retiring, finished his career with 489 wins and 347 losses. He coached the last 25 seasons at Pacific, his alma mater. ... Pacific entered the game with a 5-1 record on neutral courts, including 1-1 against NCAA Tournament teams, with a victory over St. Mary's and a loss to California.
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