University of Miami basketball fans stayed up until the wee hours the past few nights to catch the Hurricanes in the Diamond Head Classic from Hawaii. They were hoping for a late Christmas night championship game, but will have to settle for the consolation final against Indiana State after the Canes lost to then-No. 4 Arizona 69-50 in the semifinals.
The Hurricanes (8-2) hung close for a while, stole the ball 14 times and forced the Wildcats (11-0) into 16 turnovers, but they were outrebounded 46-20, which made a huge difference.
UM was without starting center Reggie Johnson for the second game in a row after he injured his left thumb during practice Friday. He is questionable for the Indiana State game.
Julian Gamble started in Johnson’s place but was unable to dominate the paint like he did against Hawaii on Saturday night. Against the Warriors, he scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and grabbed 13 rebounds, but he had only three points and three rebounds in 31 minutes against the Wildcats, who moved up to No. 3 in Monday’s rankings.
Kenny Kadji led the Canes with 19 points, and Durand Scott had 15. With Johnson out, Bishop Daniels quitting the team, and Trey McKinney Jones battling illness — he was hospitalized with 105 degree fever Friday night — the thin UM bench was outscored 22-1 by Arizona. Larkin played 35 minutes against Hawaii and 38 minutes against Arizona. Scott played 35 minutes against Hawaii and 36 against Arizona. Kadji stayed in 35 minutes against the Wildcats.
The Hurricanes were planning a trip to Pearl Harbor on Monday, but coach Jim Larranaga said they would probably cancel because his players were exhausted physically and mentally after the 4,800-mile trip and two tough late games.
He wants them to be rested against the Sycamores (6-4).
“Reggie is our best rebounder and best interior scorer, and it would have been interesting to see if he could have neutralized Arizona,” Larranaga said. “They’re very, very good, and we didn’t rebound well enough to neutralize them. We missed shots, didn’t have a good offensive game, and Arizona is very good defensively. They also have a deeper bench and were better rested.”
Larranaga said his players were frustrated they didn’t play better in the high-profile game against Arizona. A win certainly would have bumped them into the Top 25. Instead, they turn their focus to the Sycamores, who lost 62-55 to San Diego State in the other semifinal.
“They like to run a motion offense and play man-to-man,” Larranaga said. “They took a page out of Bob Knight’s playbook. Their style is very typical of the Bob Knight Indiana teams.”
Despite the lopsided loss to Arizona, Larranaga said the trip has been a good learning experience for his team. Also, playing the fourth-ranked team in the nation helped boost UM’s RPI. The Canes’ strength of schedule is ranked No. 8 in the nation, and their RPI ranges from No. 10 to No. 12, depending on the index.
“This is definitely the toughest nonconference schedule in UM history, and we are 8-2 with that schedule, which is something to be proud of,” the coach said.