No more preseason scrimmages.
No more meaningless exhibitions.
The University of Miami men’s and women’s basketball seasons officially begin Friday with a doubleheader at the BankUnited Center.
Everything counts from now on, and the seniors on both teams are particularly determined to raise the profile of their program in a city that focuses most of its basketball attention on the NBA champion Heat.
The men, who play Stetson at 5:30 p.m., are eager to get back on the floor and prove they are better than they showed in a demoralizing 69-67 exhibition loss to Division II Saint Leo last week. In that game, the significantly smaller Saint Leo players outhustled the Hurricanes.
Senior center Reggie Johnson called the game “embarrassing.”
Senior guard Trey McKinney Jones, one of the few seniors who played well that night with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, said Saint Leo “hit us in the mouth and we didn’t respond.”
A group of players went out for dinner after that game, had a good long talk, and vowed to step up their intensity. There are six seniors on the roster, and coach Jim Larranaga wants to see them pay more attention to detail in practice and games.
He was especially disappointed that the Hurricanes combined for just seven assists, and tied the Lions with 33 rebounds despite their height advantage. UM has five players 6-10 or taller. Saint Leo’s tallest player is 6-8.
“I was surprised,” Larranaga said of his team’s flat performance against Saint Leo. “It’s not like a veteran team to start like that. But we’ve been able to watch tape with the team and individuals that clearly explain the coaches’ concerns about our attention to detail.
“It doesn’t matter how big you are, if you don’t box out, you’re going to get beat to rebounds. Every player realizes that he has a lot of things to work on to get better. We have their attention and they’re working hard.”
Larranaga said the mood has been “serious” at practice this week.
“There is a little more sense of understanding of how important it is to do the little things,” Larranaga said. “They feel the embarrassment of not playing up to their capabilities.”
Jones added: “We’re going to bounce back. We’re a resilient group. We’ll do what we have to do.”
The UM women, ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP poll, got off to a better start than the men in their first game. The new-look Hurricanes were without last year’s stars Shenise “Moe” Johnson and Riquina “Bay-Bay” Williams, and coaches and fans were curious to see how they would respond.
Five players scored in double figures in an 85-63 win over Nova Southeastern. Senior guard Stefanie Yderstrom led the Hurricanes with 19 points, including four from beyond the three-point arc. Sophomore guard Suriya “Ray Ray” McGuire displayed her athleticism and energy with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.
The Hurricanes outrebounded Nova 55-34.
Coach Katie Meier was pleased that her players seem to be adjusting to their new roles now that they can no longer lean on Johnson and Williams. They now have the green light to shoot and be leaders.
She was also encouraged that her team didn’t panic when Nova tied the game early in the second half.
On the contrary, the Hurricanes took over and went on a 25-5 run to put the game away.
“It’s our time now,” Yderstrom said. “It was great when Mo and Bay were here. It’s been a great journey. But now it’s our turn to lead the team and keep that tradition going. I’m super excited the season is here.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams have just a few games to warm up before national high-profile matchups. The women host Tennessee on Nov. 18 at BankUnited Center at 2:05 p.m. The men play Michigan State at home Nov. 28 on ESPN.