CORAL GABLES (AP) – Rion Brown scored 18 points to lead Miami to a 66-50 win over Valparaiso on Wednesday night in the opening round of the NIT.
The Hurricanes stretched a four-point lead and finished the game with a 16-0 run over the final 3:41. Malcolm Grant and Shane Larkin keyed the run with consecutive 3-pointers.
Larkin scored 12 points and Trey McKinney Jones finished with 10 for Miami (20-12), which advances to a second-round matchup Sunday against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers beat La Salle 70-61.
“We both didn’t want to end our season tonight,” Larkin said. “They came out and played real hard. Every time we made a run they came right back at us. We were mentally tough and pulled it out.”
Brown hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Hurricanes their first double-digit lead, 44-33, with 11:31 remaining. Brown’s jumper with 9:15 left increased the lead to 48-35.
Brown shot 6 of 11 from the field, including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc.
“These guys have been doing a great job of finding me,” Brown said. “I just had to make sure to knock down the shots.”
Ryan Broekhoff and Will Bogan each hit 3-pointers to lead a 9-0 run for Valparaiso (22-12). Richie Edwards’ jumper with 6:50 remaining ended the surge and got the Crusaders within 48-45.
Broekhoff scored 18 points and Richie Edwards finished with 16 for the under-manned Crusaders, who used only six players.
“The score was not an indication of how close the game was,” Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew said. “I thought twice today Miami gave us a standing eight count and our guys immediately came right back.”
Garrius Adams’ basket with 5:42 remaining ended a 6-0 spurt and increased Miami’s lead to 54-45. Valparaiso responded with four unanswered points and got to within 54-50 on Erik Buggs’ layup with 4:23 remaining.
“We just had to keep fighting and try to find a way to win the game,” Brown said.
Miami was without leading scorer Durand Scott, who began serving a six-game suspension after being declared ineligible last week for receiving impermissible benefits. Scott, who also missed Friday’s loss to FloridaState in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, was notified of the suspension earlier Wednesday.
“We talked to Durand to let him know what the circumstances were,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “He handled it with great class.”
The Crusaders were without guards Jay Harris and Matt Kenney, who missed the game because of flu symptoms.
“We only have seven scholarship players available and we really didn’t have many choices as a coaching staff,” Drew said. “But I was extremely proud of the six guys. They gave themselves a chance to win.”
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