By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Angel Rodriguez got seventh-ranked Miami going quickly against Notre Dame.
After Tonye Jekiri missed a basket inside, Rodriguez drove into the paint for a layup on Miami’s second possession. Then he did it again. Then, when he looked as though he would do it again, he fired a bounce pass to Sheldon McClellan, who turned it into a three-point play.
The Hurricanes jumped to a 12-0 lead, quickly extended it to 21-3 and cruised to a 68-50 victory Wednesday night to move back into a tie with North Carolina for first-place in the Atlantic Coast Conference as Rodriguez matched his season high with 19 points.
"He’s the catalyst," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "A catalyst is someone who makes things happen. They don’t wait for things to happen. He does it with his defense. He does it with his ball handling. He does it with his shooting. When he’s in control our whole team seems to function better."
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey thinks the Hurricanes, who have manhandled the Irish twice this season, are the best team his team has faced.
"They may win the national championship," he said. "They’re really good. They’re really old. Their men were playing against our boys most of the night."
The Hurricanes (24-5, 13-4) held the Fighting Irish (19-10, 10-7) to a season-low 34 percent shooting as Notre Dame struggled offensively for the fourth straight game, losing three of those. The Hurricanes also had a 39-16 advantage in rebounds and a 32-24 edge in points in the paint.
Zach Auguste led the Irish with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Bonzie Colson add 11 points.
After opening the 18-point lead, the Hurricanes never let the Irish get any closer than seven. The Irish cut to the lead to nine points with 12 minutes to go, but Miami quickly stretched the lead back out to 15. Notre Dame made one last gasp with a 6-0 spurt with to cut the lead to 59-50 with a jumper by V.J. Beachem with 3:03 left. The Hurricanes ended the streak with a 6-0 run of its own, capped by a pair of free throws by Rodriguez.
"Every time we showed a little bit of oomph, the men said: `Uh-uh, not today,"’ Brey said.
Jekiri added 14 points for the Hurricanes and Davon Reed had 10.
Rodriguez said the Hurricanes, who were beaten 96-71 by North Carolina in their last road game on Feb. 20, was eager for a road victory.
"I just really want to win an ACC championship, and we’re in a position to do that," he said. "I thought we were more physical than them. It seemed like we wanted it more."
Larranaga said his team is determined.
"They know where we are in the standings. They know how close we are to finishing the regular season on a very high note," he said.
Brey is trying to find a way to turnaround the offense for the Irish, who have been held below 70 points for four straight games.
"I have absolutely no freaking idea right now. But I’m going to spend a lot time tonight and tomorrow. I told my guys, `I’ve got to try and figure out a way to try to help you."
Miami: The Hurricanes have won eight of their last nine. … Miami evened the all-time series at 10-10. … McClellan has scored 10 or more points in 17 straight games. …. Anthony Lawrence Jr., who made all four 3-pointers he attempted and scored a season-high 18 points in Miami’s 79-70 victory over Notre Dame on Feb. 3, was scoreless, going 0-2 from the floor.
Notre Dame: The Irish lost back-to-back games for the first time since the end of the 2013-14 season. The Irish have shot season-lows in both, making 36 percent of its shots against Florida State… Auguste has scored 10 or more points in nine straight games. … The 50 points were the fewest scored by the Irish since a 70-49 loss to Virginia two years ago. … Football coach Brian Kelly and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford sat courtside.
Miami is at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Notre Dame hosts North Carolina State on Saturday.
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