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Miami having fun, facing Illini to advance in NCAA

Saturday - 3/23/2013, 7:00pm  ET

Miami's Trey McKinney Jones, left, answers a question alongside Julian Gamble, center, and Kenny Kadji, right, during a news conference for a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Miami is scheduled to play Illinois Sunday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Basketball Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The Miami Hurricanes turned an unplanned fire drill into an impromptu party.

A fire alarm forced the team to evacuate the arena during practice Saturday. Once outside, the Hurricanes started dancing and having a good time.

"We made the most out of it," guard Trey McKinney Jones said. "Julian (Gamble, the big post player) was out there rapping, we were just having fun. Being brothers, like we really are."

That's exactly what coach Jim Larranaga likes to see, though he might be having more fun than any of his players with the Hurricanes (28-6) one victory away from getting into the NCAA tournament round of 16.

ACC regular-season and tournament champion Miami, the No. 2 team in the East Regional, plays No. 7 seed Illinois (23-12) of the Big Ten on Sunday night. The winner goes to Washington D.C. to play Butler or Marquette.

"I told the players before the tournament began that I was going to have more fun than any other head coach and I wanted them to have more fun than any other team," said Larranaga, the second-year Miami coach who took George Mason to the NCAA Final Four seven years ago.

"Nothing was going to bother me," he said. "There would be no complaining."

Not even after being interrupted during their allotted 90-minute closed practice at the Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus.

McKinney Jones said the team didn't know whether to leave or not when the alarm went off. But a security guard came to escort them out of the building, and they stayed outside for about 25 minutes before going back in to resume practice. The alarm was apparently triggered by a minor mechanical problem.

"We have had a lot of firsts this year and today we had another first," Larranaga said. "But the neat part about our Miami players is they kept everything in stride and had a good time outside, just hanging out with each other and talking and getting ready. ... But we had a very good practice."

The Hurricanes, who beat Pacific 78-49 in their first NCAA tourney game in five years, already have four more wins than ever before. They have been to the round of 16 only once and that was 13 years ago.

Illinois hasn't been that far since being the national runner-up in 2005, though both coaches have been that far -- and beyond -- with mid-major teams.

Illinois first-year coach John Groce was in the round of 16 just last year with Ohio, though his Illini should feel fortunate to still be playing in this tournament after the struggles in their opener.

After building a 16-point halftime lead against Colorado, the Illini went 11 minutes without scoring (missing 14 shots in a row) and fell behind by five. They made only three field goals after halftime -- all in a span of 2
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