CORAL GABLES (AP) – Jim Larranaga mounted the ladder last and went to the basket hard, scissors in hand. The net came off with one final snip and he twirled it over his head, then draped it around his neck.
Down to their third try and last chance, Larranaga’s Miami Hurricanes came through Saturday. Kenny Kadji scored a season-high 23 points to help sixth-ranked Miami win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship outright by beating Clemson 62-49.
Then came the cutting of the net, a new ritual for Miami’s program. “It’s a piece of memorabilia you’ll keep with you for a lifetime,” said Larranaga, who is in his second year with the Hurricanes. “It’s something the players feel is very, very special, because you don’t get to do it all the time. Some programs do it almost annually but we haven’t done that here. And when you do anything for the first time, it’s very, very exciting.’’
Miami (24-6, 15-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) clinched its first outright men’s basketball league title after being foiled by consecutive losses to Duke and Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes tied the school record for victories set in 2001-02, when they went 24-8, and improved to 14-1 at home in their regular-season finale.
The league championship is the second for the Hurricanes, who shared the Big East Conference title in 2000. Now comes the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., where Miami will be the top seed.
“That’s not the last net I plan on cutting down,” Trey McKinney Jones said. “The sky’s the limit for us. If we play together, we have so many weapons.”
When Kadji sank a 3-pointer for a 55-41 lead with 3:10 left, the Hurricanes ran upcourt grinning at each other to a deafening roar from the crowd, dressed as one in white ACC championship T-shirts. The game was the fifth sellout this year for the Hurricanes, traditional cellar-dwellers in conference attendance. After the final seconds ticked off, confetti rained from the ceiling.
The latest hoops success in Miami drew a salute from the city’s other title team.
“Congrats to them Canes on becoming the ACC Champs!!” LeBron James tweeted.