The conditions were sloppy outside the BankUnited Center on Thursday night — heavy rain, heavy traffic, parking lot puddles — and things weren’t much better inside for the University of Miami men’s basketball team.
The Hurricanes fell behind the University of Central Florida 10 minutes into the game, were out of sync most of the night, and wound up losing 63-58.
Miami had two chances to take over the lead late in the game, and blew both.
Trailing 54-45, the Canes scored seven unanswered points to cut the deficit to 54-52 with 3:44 to go on a tip-in by James Kelly (his only points of the game). The orange-clad crowd of 4,895 roared for the first time all night.
But then UM freshman Davon Reed, who had a big scoring night with 17 points on a bum ankle, turned the ball over and UCF’s Kasey Wilson made a jumper. On the other end of the floor, Wilson grabbed the rebound off a missed three-point attempt by the Canes’ Rion Brown, and Calvin Newell dropped in a layup to put the Knights up by six.
Miami got even closer with 54 seconds to go, closing to 59-58 after Brown stole the ball from Newell and made a layup. Again, the crowd went wild. Again the fans wound up sinking back into their seats.
In the final minute, UCF made two free throws and Wilson got loose in the paint and dunked with 22 seconds left. UM, meanwhile, had two missed free throws by Donnavan Kirk and a turnover by Garrius Adams, who led Miami with a career-high 20 points.
“What you saw out there was a very inexperienced team in so many ways,’’ said UM coach Jim Larrañaga. “We weren’t focused at all at the beginning of the game, not executing our game plan at all. It was like our guys just met.’’
The coach said he was particularly upset with the final few minutes of the game.
“What was disappointing for me was that when we got within two, we went back to rushing, not sharing the ball,’’ he said. “We got two turnovers without getting a shot. We gave them a dunk. We made a lot of mistakes and paid dearly for it.’’
Freshman point guard Manu Lecomte had a rough night. He went 0 for 6 with two assists, three turnovers, and no rebounds.
A visibly dejected Brown agreed a big problem was lack of cohesion. He hopes an extended road trip to California next week for the Wooden Legacy tournament will help the team bond.
“We need to get some more team chemistry,’’ Brown said. “Off the court, we’re great together. But on the court, you can see on some plays we’re not all thinking alike, we’re not on the same mind-set.’’
The Canes were behind by seven at halftime after going 1 for 10 from three-point range and being held to one basket in the last five minutes of the half.
Larrañaga and his staff had warned the Canes that the Knights are ranked 10th in the nation in offensive rebounding, and that the battle of the boards was going to be a big key to the game.
He was right. UCF dominated the glass, 43-36, and had 12 offensive rebounds to seven for UM — scoring on most of those second chances.
Tonye Jekiri, who tweaked an ankle in the previous game, played but was limited to two points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. Reed was questionable for the game with a sprained ankle, but “gutted and grinded it out,’’ said Larrañaga.
Reed shot 7-of-10 with three three-pointers, five rebounds two steals and a block. “But our job is to win, and we didn’t accomplish that,’’ Reed said.
The Knights have three South Floridians on the team — Dylan Karell of Krop High; Steven Haney of St. Thomas Aquinas High; and Staphon Blair from Ft. Lauderdale Dillard High. Blair made the most emphatic return home, slamming down a dunk with 11:16 left in the game to open up the Knights lead, 46-39.
UM fell to 3-2 and UCF is 3-1. The Hurricanes’ next home game is Dec. 8 against Virginia Tech.