Hurricanes fans at the Watsco Center Saturday afternoon got a preview of the future of the University of Miami men’s basketball team, as the freshman trio of Dewan Huell, Bruce Brown and D.J. Vasiljevic were instrumental in a 74-62 victory over the University of Pennsylvania.
Miami center Ebuka Izundu sat out the game with a left ankle sprain, and freshman guard Brown replaced him in the starting lineup. Brown finished with 15 points, three blocks and three steals.
The absence of Izundu also gave 6-11 freshman Huell an opportunity to play a key role in the paint, and he made his presence felt immediately. He entered the game at the five-minute mark and proceeded to get five offensive rebounds and score nine of UM’s next 12 points — four dunks and a free throw.
Veteran starters Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton struggled early, missing 11 of their first 12 shots, but the freshmen came to the rescue. It was evident early on that UM coach Jim Larrañaga has faith in his rookies, as he had three of them on the floor at the same time — Brown, Huell and Vasiljevic. Twenty of Miami’s 28 first-half points were scored by the freshmen.
UM led 28-23 at the break. The Canes scored 92 and 94 points in their first two games, but this one went at a snail’s pace in the first half.
“The freshmen gave us a big boost,” said Newton. “Dewan came in and was getting rebounds, finishing them. Bruce gave us a boost starting. He did a fantastic job on defense, blocking shots, and making shots. DJ was doing what he always does, making open threes and spreading the defense for us.”
Vasiljevic said he is “getting more comfortable as the games go along,” and feels his teammates are beginning to trust him more.
Reed and Newton, who combined for two points in the first half, found their rhythm after intermission and were a big reason the Hurricanes opened up a 20-point lead with four minutes to go. Newton started slashing to the basket, scored seven straight points early in the second half and wound up as the game’s leading scorer with 18 points.
Huell, Reed and Vasiljevic had 11 apiece. A.J. Brodeur led the Quakers with 16 points.
“That was a tale of two halves,” said Larrañaga. “First half we were challenging the defense rather than attacking and kicking it out to the open man. We had only two assists in the first half, but the second half we had eight. Our defense was good both halves. Overall, a good win when you’re not playing at your best offensively.”
UM shot 33.3 percent in the first half and 61.5 percent in the second.
“I’m very proud of how we competed, especially in the first half,” said Penn coach Steve Donahue. “We turned them over 16 times, battled them on boards for most part. But Miami, I love their young players, and their experienced guards. That’s a very good basketball team.”
Miami travels to Orlando over Thanksgiving for the AdvoCare Invitational. They play Stanford on Thanksgiving Day (2:30 p.m., ESPN2).