Miami Hurricanes fans still bummed out over the football team’s loss at Pitt found some consolation at the WATSCO Center Saturday afternoon as the 11th-ranked University of Miami men’s basketball team beat the University of North Florida 86-65.
The Canes were coming off an underwhelming performance in a 57-46 win over LaSalle and were eager to get into better form before Wednesday’s road game at No. 14 Minnesota, their first game against a ranked opponent. With Saturday’s victory, Miami remained undefeated at 5-0.
Five UM players finished in double figures, led by Bruce Brown and Anthony Lawrence with 14 apiece, Dewan Huell (13), Ja’Quan Newton (12), and Chris Lykes (10). The Hurricanes outscored the Ospreys 54-22 in the paint, got 21 points off UNF turnovers and shot 91.7 percent from the free-throw line in the second half (11 of 12).
UNF opened the season at then-No. 2 Michigan State and Michigan, and also played at No. 8 Florida (all three losses), so coach Matthew Driscoll was in position to compare Miami to those teams.
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“The thing I’d say about Miami is they really, really, really understand who they are, and they find each other,” Driscoll said. “They don’t have guys that are pigs. They share the sugar.”
“This group is very, very deep, and have a lot of options. People may say, ‘Well, they haven’t played anyone yet. How good are they really?’ They’re really, really good, deserve to be in the Top 20 and have a chance to have a special year.”
Five takeaways from the game:
▪ 1. Lost in all the buzz about incoming freshmen Lonnie Walker IV and Lykes was Sam Waardenburg, a 6-11 redshirt freshman from New Zealand who promises to be a key player this season based on his performances the past two games. In 16 minutes off the bench Saturday, he scored nine points, had six rebounds, an assist a block and a steal. Against LaSalle three nights earlier, he had seven points and two rebounds in 13 minutes.
“He brings a whole new dimension to our front court, and he’s going to play a good role for us,” said UM coach Jim Larrañaga.
▪ 2. Walker has been held to single digits in four consecutive games, including a 5-point performance on 2-of-8 shooting in his homecoming against LaSalle in Reading, Pa., on Wednesday night. Against UNF, he finished with seven points in 22 minutes but showed flashes of the athleticism that made him one of the nation’s most coveted recruits. “I’m still trying to figure him out, like when Dwyane Wade went to the Bulls and they had to figure him out,” Larrañaga said. “Once they figured things out, D-Wade played great, and I think Lonnie will be the same.”
▪ 3. Lykes may be 5-7, but he makes a big impact. Along with 10 points in 19 minutes, he had four assists, a steal and only one turnover. “Bruce Lee was 5-7. Tom Cruise is 5-7. They’re pretty good at what they do,” Larrañaga said. “Chris is fast, quick, a nuisance on defense, can shoot the three, can blow by you. … It’s not about height. It’s about heart. He’s got a huge heart, and huge skills.”
▪ 4. Larrañaga said Brown can play even better than he has so far. “Bruce is playing like Clark Kent, a little conservative, glasses, suit and tie. At some point, he’ll remove the glasses and become Superman.”
▪ 5. UM has struggled at the line but went 11-of-12 in the second half against UNF. “I told the guys there are only 351 teams in Division I, and we were ranked 350 in free-throw percentage. Our goal is to be the most improved team by February.”