Shane Larkin takes over, helps University of Miami avoid ACC upset

With three minutes to play and the top-seeded Miami Hurricanes in danger of an embarrassingly quick exit from the ACC tournament, sixth-year senior Julian Gamble turned to sophomore teammate Shane Larkin with a request.

“I told him, ‘Take the game over,’ ” Gamble said. “That’s what he does. We’ve seen him do it time and time again.”

Larkin, the runner-up for ACC Player of the Year, did just that Friday afternoon, scoring five of his game-high 20 points in the final 1:49 as the ninth-ranked Hurricanes (25-6) pulled away from No. 8 seed Boston College (16-17) in a 69-58 victory that sends UM into Saturday’s semifinal against North Carolina State at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Larkin stole a pass with 2:07 remaining and converted it into a three-pointer, then followed by assisting on a Rion Brown jumper that gave UM a 62-55 lead with 57 seconds left. When Boston College responded with a three-pointer, Larkin answered by streaking up court and scoring on a layup off a court-length pass from Trey McKinney-Jones.

Thirty-four seconds remained, but BC’s hopes of becoming the third No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in conference tournament history vanished.

“He loves those moments,” senior forward Kenny Kadji said. “It’s like he likes being down and having to be the hero. He’s pretty good at it.”

Larkin, who also was the runner-up to teammate Durand Scott for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, did more than hit clutch shots. He also held freshman Olivier Hanlan, coming off a record 41-point outburst in Thursday’s opening round game against Georgia Tech, to 14 points.

The victory set a UM single-season record for wins, breaking a tie with the 2001-02 team.

Many of those wins would have been impossible without Larkin, who made 8-of-15 shots Friday and added four assists, three rebounds and two steals.

That helped UM avoid becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose its opening game in the ACC tournament since 1997.

“He’s so good at what he does,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said of Larkin. “A lot of times you’ll see him in the first half try to get the ball to (his teammates), and then the second half starts, he starts to pick his spots to attack and score or find the open man. We absolutely needed that.”

Larkin and UM received plenty of help from Kadji, who registered his fourth consecutive double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Hurricanes beat Boston College twice during the regular season and appeared on the way to an easy third victory after taking an early double-digit lead.

But the Eagles, who fell behind 14-0 in their opening-round win against Georgia Tech, took advantage of UM foul trouble and led at halftime 27-25.

“We got a little passive,” Larranaga said.

BC maintained its lead for the first eight minutes of the second half until a layup by Larkin — who else? — gave UM a 43-42 advantage. A three-pointer by the Eagles’ Patrick Heckmann tied the game at 55-55 with 3:32 to play before Larkin began working his magic.

“Tournament play is all about survive and advance,” Gamble said. “You’re not always going to play your best game, but the results are all that matters.”

UM is making its second trip to the ACC semifinals since joining the conference in the 2004-05 season. The Hurricanes lost to Duke 77-74 in the 2010 semis, also in Greensboro.

Miami played North Carolina State on Feb. 2, beating the Wolfpack 79-78 in Raleigh, N.C., on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Reggie Johnson.