When you beat a team 21 of the 22 times you play them, there is a tendency to take them lightly the 23rd time. But the University of Miami men’s basketball team knew better heading into Friday night’s home game against Florida Atlantic University.
The Hurricanes needed double overtime to get past the Owls in 2011. And the FAU team that stepped onto the Watsco Center court Friday was coming off an overtime road victory at Ohio State. That result certainly got the Canes’ attention.
Miami, back in action after a nine-day break for final exams, played with a sense of urgency from the start. UM took control of the game by halftime and cruised to a 76-56 win.
Miami improved to 8-2. FAU dropped to 3-6.
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“We know not to underestimate any opponent,” said Davon Reed, who led UM with 21 points. “They’re [Division I] for a reason.”
Freshman guard Bruce Brown, coming off a triple-double in his last game, had another good night with 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. Kamari Murphy and Dewan Huell dominated in the paint, grabbing 10 rebounds apiece. And Anthony “Amp” Lawrence added 13 points and several hustle plays that kept the ball in the Canes’ hands.
The Owls roster includes several transfers — Adonis Filer (Clemson), Frank Booker (Oklahoma), 7-footer Ronald Delph (Auburn), and three-point specialist Justin Massey of Cooper City, who transferred from Brown.
UM coach Jim Larrañaga coached Booker’s father 30 years ago at Bowling Green and figured the son was made of the same mold. He knew Filer would be a handful because he remembered him from when the Canes played Clemson a few years ago. And a friend told him Delph is a legitimate NBA prospect because of his size and skill.
So, the coach warned his players to treat their Conference USA foes as if they were an ACC team. The Canes crashed the boards early, played tenacious defense, forced the Owl starters to miss nine of their first 10 shots and opened up a 20-12 lead that stretched to 39-24 by halftime.
UM’s perimeter defense was particularly effective, forcing FAU into 3-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc. The Owls made 10 threes against Ohio State.
“The key was getting back on D, and defending the three,” Larranaga said. “When you make them miss, you have a chance to rebound and run.”
Miami outrebounded FAU 48-29.
Newton cramped with 10 minutes to go, and left the court limping with the Canes holding a 56-36 lead. He scored eight points, had six rebounds, and most important to Larrañaga, his assist-to-turnover ratio was 6-to-1. The coaches had challenged Newton and several other UM players to cut down on turnovers.
Miami is back home Dec. 22 against George Washington. FAU plays Dec. 21 against Webber International.