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Miami clips Wichita State, proves it has right combo for March

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The talk on Friday -- between first- and second-round NCAA tournament games here -- was all about disrespect.

But it wasn't just First Four survivor Wichita State making the claim. Miami also felt as though not enough people had taken the Hurricanes seriously, either in this game or, really, this entire season.

Wichita State, after all, was the two-point favorite despite the Shockers' lower seed at No. 11.

"I feel like a lot of people think we haven't done enough to prove ourselves," Miami's redshirt senior Angel Rodriguez said when asked about the underdog status.

Perhaps this will be enough. In withstanding Wichita State's improbable rally from 21 down to hold on for the 65-57 win, the No. 3-seeded Hurricanes showed exactly why they aren't just a good team; they're a good enough team for the Final Four.

Miami won this game early and won it again late, needing its entire arsenal to hold off a Wichita State team that had to be playing on rubber legs, what with its third game in five days.

The Hurricanes have an arsenal at their disposal, and it includes the sort of combo that March success is built on: defense, experience and a very smart backcourt.

Folks came into this game rightly talking about the Shockers' defense, but they also failed to realize that Miami's is good, too, ranking 18th in the nation in field goal percentage defense, at 39 percent. That defense allowed the Hurricanes to build what turned out to be a critical 27-6 lead, strangling the Shockers into early 1-of-10 shooting and 13 turnovers.

When the defense started to fail and the Shockers summoned their rally, it was the experience of Miami's backcourt that saved the day. As soon as Wichita State's rally began, with the Shockers taking a 43-42 lead, it was essentially over. Fifth-year senior Sheldon McClellan scored eight consecutive points, including a dagger 3-pointer that put the Hurricanes up six.

It was clutch shooting at its finest and more -- nerves of steel. A young team, feeling the heat of a crowd turned decidedly in favor of the Shockers, would likely fold. A team that has McClellan and Rodriguez in the backcourt doesn't blink and moves on to the Sweet 16.