Their home arena has a new name. Four highly touted freshmen are eager to prove they’re as good as advertised. And senior leaders Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy want to build on their run to the Sweet 16 last spring.
The 2016-17 University of Miami men’s basketball season officially tipped off Wednesday night at the Watsco Center (previously known as the BankUnited Center), and the Hurricanes had to work much harder than fans expected to get past the gritty, sharpshooting Barry Buccaneers 73-62 in a preseason game.
Barry reached the Division II Elite Eight last year, the best season in school history, and showed why. With 8:53 to go, Barry’s Sawyer Glick hit a three-pointer and closed Miami’s lead to 55-53. Glick made another three with just under six minutes left to close to 59-56 before UM went on a 13-1 run that included back-to-back threes by Reed and freshman Bruce Brown and a dunk by Murphy.
“The shot that really hit us was Reed’s three,” Barry coach Butch Estes said. “Great call. Great shot.”
Reed led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting, including five three-pointers. Ja’Quan Newton, replacing the graduated Angel Rodriguez at point guard, had 18 points, four assists and four turnovers.
Brown led the freshmen with 10 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.
Glick led Barry with 18 points, including six three-pointers. Elvar Fridriksson of Iceland, the Division II assist leader last season with 8.1 per game, had 17 points and five assists. And Hialeah Gardens graduate Adrian Gonzalez added 11 points.
“Our new guys are taking good steps, but as a team we’re still a work in progress,” Reed said. “We have to defend the three better. It’s going to take some time. It was good for us to have a chance to face adversity.”
UM coach Jim Larrañaga was tapped into the school’s Iron Arrow Society on Wednesday and wore the brightly colored jacket to the news conference.
“My major thought is our defense in practice, but we don’t see the results as much as I’d like to at this point,” he said.
Larrañaga was disappointed that Newton, Reed, Murphy and Brown finished with four fouls each. Larrañaga also said he’d like to see Newton improve his assist-to-turnover ratio.
“We can’t afford those players to be in foul trouble all game long. We’re not that deep. We’re young, have a lot of inexperienced guys. We can’t have our veterans sitting on the bench in foul trouble.”
Miami’s starting lineup included five returning players: Reed, Murphy, Newton, Anthony “Amp” Lawrence and Ebuka Izundu.
At the 15:46 mark, Larrañaga put all the fresh faces on the court together — Norland High’s 6-11 Dewan Huell, 7-footer Rodney Miller Jr., Australian point guard Dejan “DJ” Vasiljevic, 6-5 guard Brown out of Boston and San Jose State transfer Rashad Muhammad.
Brown seemed comfortable immediately and scored five points in his first 15 minutes. The Canes led 38-31 at halftime.