Miami grinds out win over Illinois, heads to first Sweet 16 since 2000

Kevin Kaduk
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Miami will head to its first Sweet Sixteen in 13 years, thanks to a 63-59 win over Illinois in the East Region on Sunday night.

It was far from an easy win.

The second-seeded Hurricanes could never shake the seventh-seeded Illini, who even took a one-point lead on a Tracy Abrams free throw with 1:24 remaining in the game.

Shane Larkin, however, hit a three to take a 57-55 lead with 1:03 remaining. The Hurricanes then took advantage of a highly-questionable possession call that would have given Illinois the ball down one with under 40 seconds to play. Durand Scott made two free throws on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to four points and Miami never looked back.

Miami's Rion Brown led all scorers with 21 points and added five rebounds. Larkin contributed 17 points and had five assists. Brandon Paul led the Illini with 18 points.

"I asked you guys to be fighters and you know who I saw out there?" Miami coach Jim Larranaga asked his team in the locker room after the game.

"Muhammad Ali!" he immediately responded before starting to shadowbox.

Miami's win coupled with Florida and Florida Gulf Coast's weekend gives the state of Florida three teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time in history. Illinois would have been the fifth Big Ten team to reach the tournament's second weekend.

Miami will face third-seeded Marquette next Thursday at Washington's Verizon Center.

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