CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- It came a few days later than hoped for, but Miami finally got its first outright regular-season conference title in the program's history Saturday afternoon.
With senior Kenny Kadji scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to record his third consecutive double-double, the Hurricanes pulled away over the final 11 minutes to post a 62-49 victory over Clemson and finish the regular season with a 15-3 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
That assured them of finishing alone in first place no matter what second-place four-loss Duke did later that night at North Carolina. They already had earned the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament that opens Thursday in Greensboro, N.C.
The sixth-ranked Hurricanes had blown the opportunity to clinch the outright title earlier in the week when they lost at home to Georgia Tech Wednesday night.
"It's surreal," senior Julian Gamble said after the Hurricanes cut down the nets at their BankUnited Center home. "It's hard to describe.
"After that loss Wednesday, we kind of put a little bit of pressure on ourselves. But what better night to do it than senior night?"
The win also got a little bit of mojo back for the Hurricanes, who had lost three of their last four games.
"I told the players after the game I was less happy and more relieved after we won the game," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "Because I felt like we had started to struggle a little bit with our own mental approach.
"We got distracted, maybe because of all the media attention and no longer were the games as exciting or as much fun. It was more of a job.
"I felt like today at halftime the most important message to the guys was to enjoy the process."
The two teams were tied at the intermission 25-25, and the visiting Tigers (13-17, 5-13) stayed within striking distance for the first eight minutes or so, just as Georgia Tech had done three nights earlier.
It just a six-point game, 38-32, with 9:07 remaining.
This time, the Hurricanes responded in a big way.
Sophomore Shane Larkin, who had missed his first seven field goal attempts, hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Hurricanes were on their way.
They took a double-digit lead for good on Kadji's 3-pointer that made it 49-38 with 5:38 remaining. With 2:46 left, they were up by 15 points and ready to begin their celebration.
Kadji's 23 points were a game high, and Larkin, who didn't score his first point until the 8:47 mark of the game, finished with 11.
"I thought it was a competitive game," said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. "We just didn't do enough good things to win.
"The second half we struggled a little bit."
Freshman Jordan Roper led Clemson with 12 points, but all came in the first six minutes of the game. He didn't score again after Larkin started guarding him after the first media timeout.
Roper got off only four field attempts over the last 35 minutes.
"We maybe didn't do a great job of getting him more shots at times," Brownell said, "but it wasn't easy because of the way they were guarding. We were always going against a set defense."
Larranaga said that Larkin specifically asked for the assignment on Roper as he watched the opening minutes.
"When he was sitting on the bench at the start of the game, I looked down and he said, 'I'm ready to go. Let me guard Roper,'" Larranaga said. "He already had 12 points, but I'm very coachable. I put Shane in and he guarded Roper."
NOTES: At 24-6 overall, Miami has tied the 2001-02 Hurricanes for a program record for wins in a season. The 15-3 ACC mark ties the 1998-99 Hurricanes for the best conference record in program history. That team's 15-3 finish in the Big East was good for only second place, however. The 1999-00 Hurricanes got a piece of the only other conference title for the program, tying Syracuse for first in the Big East with a 13-3 mark. ... Clemson finished the regular season on a six-game losing streak. ... K.J. Daniels saw his first action for the Tigers after sitting out the previous three games with an ankle injury. He scored nine points off the bench for the Tigers.