"Yesterday in the shootaround I told one of my teammates that these were the kind of rims I like and I shot pretty well. I had no idea I would have this kind of night," he said Friday after setting a school record with nine 3-pointers and scoring 31 points to lead second-seeded Miami to a 75-54 victory over Lafayette.
Hemsley's 9-of-12 shooting show from long range almost made the fact it was the Hurricanes' first-ever win in the tournament an afterthought.
"It's a great feeling to have this kind of game in this caliber of game," Hemsley said. "It just felt great to get our first NCAA win."
The Hurricanes (23-6) had lost in their only two other appearances, 1960 and last season. Now, they move on to the second round to face the winner of the Texas-Purdue game at the FleetCenter on Sunday.
Hemsley drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer and, after his career-high seventh early in the second half, he turned to the crowd and gave an imitation of Michael Jordan's famous shrug when he couldn't miss from long range in the NBA playoffs.
"A tournament game, a full house, that's what you live for," he said. "When you play well in a packed gym, it's a great feeling."
Hemsley finished two shy of the NCAA tournament record set by Jeff Fryer of Loyola Marymount against Michigan in the second round in 1990. Hemsley did break the school record of eight set by Samarr Logan in 1990.
"Johnny's play was kind of out of the flow of what we were doing," Miami coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Johnny happened to be on and open."
Lafayette (22-8), the 15th seed which was making its second NCAA appearance and first since 1957, was within 34-29 at halftime. But Miami scored the first 12 points of the second half, half on 3-pointers by Hemsley. The closest the Leopards got the rest of the way was 57-44 with 9:14 to play.
"The fist half was pretty much what we practiced," Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said. "The zone was working to limit them in transition although Hemsley certainly hurt us with those long-range bombs. In the second half, they wore us down a little bit, turned up the defense and it's hard to play catchup against Miami."
Kevin Houston added 10 points and Tim James had nine for Miami, which has won 10 of 11, the only loss being to St. John's in the semifinals of the Big East tournament. James, the co-Big East player of the year, was slowed all week by back spasms and the decision for him to play Friday night wasn't made until gametime.
"It felt pretty good. I did all the right things to prepare for the game," he said. "I just hope it stays that way for the rest of the tournament."
Brian Ehlers, the Patriot League player of the year, led the Leopards with 14 points and Tim Bieg had nine.
Lafayette came nto the game having won nine of 10 games, including the championship game of the Patriot League tournament.
"That was a lot more draining than the Patriot League, what we're used to," Bieg said. "They're bigger and stronger. That was one of the most draining games I've played in."
Hemsley, a first-team all-Big East selection this season as a junior, finished four points off his career high set earlier this season against Georgetown.
He had five 3s in the first half to match Lafayette's total and that was one off his personal best for a game set earlier this season against Villanova. He came into the game shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc (61-for-161).
"A lot of games this season we came out kind of slow," Hemsley said. "We didn't know a lot about them and it took a while to find out what they were doing defensively."
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