The No. 6 Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes were unable to clinch their first ACC regular-season title last Saturday, but the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will not stand in the way of the Green and Orange securing an outright league championship tonight.
Although the Hurricanes have dropped two of their last three games, they will dominate the Yellow Jackets as long as their big men win the battle in the paint and senior shooting guard Durand Scott breaks out of his shooting funk.
In the first meeting between these two teams, which Miami won handily 62-49, the Hurricanes outscored Georgia Tech 28-16 in the paint. What makes that statistic even more impressive is the fact sixth-man center Reggie Johnson sat out with a broken thumb.
Despite Johnson's absence, Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble combined to score 18 points. The post duo also held the Yellow Jackets' top big men, Robert Carter and Daniel Miller, to just 5-of-14 shooting.
Having Johnson in the lineup will only help the Hurricanes stifle Georgia Tech in the paint, and provide them with a few more easy baskets than the first time around.
Who will win this ACC clash tonight?
Miami also held a plus-12 advantage on the glass in the Jan. 5 tilt at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. Kadji and Gamble pulled down 21 rebounds between them, while reserve forward Raphael Akpejiori grabbed another four boards.
This is the area where Johnson will give the Hurricanes a significant boost. Johnson leads the team in rebounding with an average of 7.8 per contest. Expect Miami to win the battle on the boards by an even larger margin at the BankUnited Center this evening.
Getting Scott going again will also be an important key to the Hurricanes clinching the ACC title outright.
Scott is shooting 45 percent from the field this season. However, he has failed to reach that mark in any of Miami's last five games.
The Hurricanes need to get Scott some open looks early in the game to help the Bronx, N.Y. native regain his confidence. Re-igniting Scott's shooting will pay major dividends for Miami in postseason play, and tonight is the perfect opportunity to do so.
As long as the Hurricanes are able to execute the aforementioned keys, they will be cutting down the nets and hoisting a championship trophy once the clock runs out.
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