Like any wily veteran coach, University of Miami’s Jim Larranaga wasn’t turning cartwheels following the Hurricanes’ nationally-televised 68-59 win at North Carolina on Thursday night. He matter-of-factly shook the hand of Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, and proceeded to instruct his players to keep their emotions in check.
Yes, the victory in one of the game’s most hallowed arenas was significant. Yes, it opened eyes and raised his team’s record to 11-3. And yes, starting the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule with back-to-back road wins is unprecedented in school history.
That said, the Canes return home to a Sunday night game against deep, tall Maryland (13-2), and Larranaga wants to make sure his players are ready.
“You need to enjoy a win like that for a short period of time, but know you’ve got to immediately get ready for the next game,” Larranaga said. “Each game has the same value. Each win is worth the same value. If you end the year 10-8, it’s 10-8 — doesn’t say who you beat.”
The coach did concede, however, that the win over the Tar Heels raised the exposure of his team.
“Winning on national television, especially against a traditionally rich program like North Carolina gets everybody’s attention,” Larranaga said.
He got more than 50 text messages and emails, including from his high school coach and his college roommate. He said every one of the UM recruits sent congratulatory texts after the game, which delighted him. Maybe a Top 25 ranking will come next.
The Canes have the nation’s sixth-highest RPI, and their strength of schedule is rated No. 1 ahead of Duke, which is 15-0 and No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. The Canes remain unranked in the AP and coaches’ poll.
“It’s not important to me at all in one regard,” Larranaga said. “In another sense, it’s very important because I think fans follow it, and I think that would help us draw more fans to our arena if they thought that we were a Top 25 team. And we would be talked about more in the media, which would help generate interest as well.”
The Canes are without starting center Reggie Johnson, but senior big men Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble have been making up for the gap. Against North Carolina, they combined for 32 points on 14-of-21 shooting and had 15 rebounds and seven blocks. Kadji had 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, including two in critical moments down the stretch.
“I think we shocked the fans up there because they see the name on our jerseys — Miami — and they don’t expect a lot from us,” Kadji said. “They didn’t expect us to make a statement. I knew we could win before we stepped on the court. We have a good team and we can compete with those people. To be honest, after halftime I thought we’d win by 20. Coach told us after that you have to expect to win, that this should not be the biggest win for Miami. We have more to come.”
The Terrapins fell to 1-1 in the ACC after losing to Florida State 65-62 in their last game. They had won 13 in a row after falling in their opener to Kentucky.
“They’re big, they’re athletic,” Larranaga said. “Quality players. Size. Speed. Quickness. Jumping ability. Shooting ability. They’ve got a very deep and talented team. They play at least 10 guys every game. I think their second unit could be the starting unit for some ACC teams. That’s how talented they are.”