CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Dejan Vasiljevic had the situation he wanted — game on the line and the ball in his hands.
Vasiljevic had a career-high 25 points, including a pair of clinching foul shots with 1.2 seconds left, as Miami outlasted Missouri State to start the Charleston Classic on Thursday.
The Hurricanes had built an 18-point lead midway through the second half, yet needed Vasiljevic’s free throws after the Bears rallied back to cut their deficit to 72-70 on Tyrik Dixon’s basket with 1.8 seconds to go.
That’s when Vasiljevic took the inbounds pass, got fouled and easily swished through his free throws to seal the game.
“I played for a long time, had a lot of big moments and made shots,” said Vasiljevic, a senior. “It’s gives confidence.”
Miami is the lone two-time tournament champion and improved to 8-0 all-time at the eight-team event. They will face either Florida or St. Joseph’s on Friday for a spot in Sunday’s finals.
Missouri State (2-3) will face the Florida-St. Joseph’s loser here Friday.
Vasiljevic helped Miami open an 18-point lead midway through the second half before Missouri State went on a 12-0 run to cut things to 64-56 with 7:31 to play.
But Kameron McGusty made a field goal and Vasiljevic finished a three-point play to extend Miami’s lead and the Bears could not recover.
Vasiljevic surpassed his previous high of 22 points set last February in a win over Clemson.
McGusty added 19 points and Chris Lykes 11 for the Hurricanes.
Gaige Prim led Missouri State with 18 points, 14 in the second half. Tulio Da Silva had 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds.
Vasiljevic had two of his four 3-pointers to start Miami’s 22-13 run that closed the opening half. His first one put the Hurricanes ahead for good, 19-17, with 8:03 remaining and he followed with another long-range basket. McGusty had five points and Harlond Beverly four points in the stretch to send Miami into the break ahead 38-30.
Missouri State: The Bears are in a difficult stretch they hope will lead to good things down the road. They fell to Xavier last Friday and after three games in Charleston will head to LSU.
Miami: The Hurricanes sure didn’t have the killer instinct in this one with Missouri State going on a 24-10 run in the last 10 minutes to nearly steal the game. That won’t fly once ACC play hits.
Missouri State’s three defeats have come by a total of eight points — and all came down to the wire. “We’ve just got a find a way” to change that, Bears coach Dana Ford said.
Miami coach Jim Larranaga didn’t think there was any magic to his team playing in Charleston, where it won titles in 2009 and 2014. “The only game I care about in Charleston is the next one,” he said.
Missouri State will play either Florida or St. Joseph’s on Friday
Miami will play either Florida or St. Joseph’s on Friday.