Jim Larranaga snipped the final strand of net hanging from the rim, then faced his players and cheering fans to twirl it in the air before draping it around his neck.
There’s no mistaking Miami for just a football school anymore. Not after Larranaga guided the once-struggling Hurricanes to the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a team that looks like it can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Shane Larkin scored 8 of his career-high 28 points in the final 2½ minutes to help No. 9 Miami pull away and beat North Carolina, 87-77, in Sunday’s ACC tournament final in Greensboro, N.C.
Trey McKinney Jones added a career-high 20 points for the top-seeded Hurricanes (27-6), including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6:27 left that started Miami’s final push toward its first tournament title.
It came one week after Miami completed its surprising run to its first ACC regular-season title in program history. And just as Larkin had promised, the Hurricanes weren’t satisfied.
‘‘We want more,’’ said senior Julian Gamble before the Hurricanes learned they’d be seeded second in the NCAA East Regional. ‘‘After we clinched the outright regular-season title at home and we [cut down the nets], we were like, ‘Wasn’t that the funnest thing you’ve ever done?’ We wanted to go to Greensboro and do it again.’’
Larkin was chosen the tournament’s MVP after finishing as runner-up for league player of the year. But he was at his best when the Hurricanes needed him to complete their climb from being picked fifth in the preseason poll to ACC champion.
In a terrific back-and-forth game filled with big shots, the Hurricanes finally slowed P.J. Hairston and the third-seeded Tar Heels (24-10) enough down the stretch to secure what amounted to a road win in front of UNC’s home-state crowd.
Hairston scored 28 points with six of the Tar Heels’ 13 3-pointers, one shy of tying the program’s team record in the tournament.
SEC final — Murphy Holloway scored 23 points and Marshall Henderson had 21 as Mississippi gave coach Andy Kennedy his first NCAA Tournament berth by upsetting 13th-ranked Florida, 66-63, in Nashville to win the conference tournament.
The Rebels (26-8) have won seven of eight in grabbing their first tournament title since 1981 and their second ever. Reginald Buckner added 13 points for Ole Miss, which won two straight without point guard Jarvis Summers.
Florida (26-7) had a final chance to force overtime. Scottie Wilbekin missed two free throws with 4.2 seconds left, and Kenny Boynton’s last-gasp three glanced off the rim.
Atlantic 10 final — Kwamain Mitchell scored 19 points, including a huge 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, and tournament MVP Dwayne Evans added 16 to lead No. 16 Saint Louis to its first Atlantic 10 tourney title with a 62-56 win over No. 25 Virginia Commonwealth in New York.
Top-seeded Saint Louis (27-6) led, 45-32, with less than 12 minutes left, and VCU was in all sorts of foul trouble. But the second-seeded Rams were within 1 point three minutes later.
Cody Ellis hit a trey on the Billikens’ next possession, then made another clutch three for a 57-51 lead with more than two minutes left. Treveon Graham led VCU (26-8) with 20 points.
Big Ten final — DeShaun Thomas scored 17 points and 10th-ranked Ohio State (26-7) used its stout defense to beat No. 22 Wisconsin, 50-43, in Chicago for the Buckeyes’ conference-best fifth tournament title.
Travon Jackson scored 10 points for the Badgers (23-11), who shot 38.3 percent from the field.
NCAA Div. 2 East Regional second round — Dion Waiters scored 18 points, including the go-ahead layup with 43 seconds left, to lead Bridgeport (22-9) to a 58-56 win over Assumption (21-7) in Manchester, N.H. . . . Adrianos Vourliotakis had 19 points and 11 boards and Franklin Pierce routed New Haven, 80-63. The Ravens (23-8) and Purple Knights will meet in Tuesday’s regional final.
Northeast final — Brittany McQuain scored 14 points to lead top-seeded Quinnipiac to a 72-33 rout of visiting St. Francis (Pa.), earning the Bobcats their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Quinnipiac (30-2) has won 22 straight games, with the last loss coming Dec. 29 at Georgia Tech.
Missouri Valley final — Alex Harden and Michaela Dapprich scored 19 points each to lead Wichita State to a 69-65 win over Illinois State in St. Charles, Mo., giving the top-seeded Shockers (24-9) their first NCAA Tournament appearance.
Colonial Athletic final — Elena Delle Donne scored 28 points, and No. 15 Delaware (30-3) held off Drexel, 59-56, in Upper Marlboro, Md., to win its second straight CAA title and extend its school-record winning streak to 25. Continued...