The University of Miami men’s basketball team had no time to sulk after Wednesday’s 67-46 home loss to Duke because an even more daunting conference foe — No. 2 Syracuse — is in town for a nationally televised Saturday afternoon game.
The Orange is 18-0 and one of just three undefeated Division I teams in the nation, along with Arizona and Wichita State. If Syracuse wins, it would equal the second-best start in school history. The 1999-2000 team had a 19-0 start.
The Hurricanes are well aware of what’s in store because they faced the Orange on Jan. 4 in a raucous Carrier Dome in Syracuse’s ACC debut. Miami played one of its best games of the season that day, managed to bust through Syracuse’s trademark zone, and led by six with four minutes to go.
But Syracuse made key baskets when it mattered most, UM faded, and the Canes missed an opportunity for a huge upset.
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UM coach Jim Larrañaga was extremely disappointed in his team’s effort against Duke, and is hoping the team will be more energetic and aggressive against the Orange.
“It is really a matter of effort,” he said. “We have to play harder. We have to be more competitive. We have to battle more when the ball is in air, be more physical. Syracuse is really, really good. They’re the best defensive team we’ve seen.’’
UM is the lowest-scoring team in the ACC at 61.5 points per game, and allows an average of 59 points per game. Syracuse averages 72 points per game, and will create a challenge with national stars C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis. Both are capable of taking over the game if the Hurricanes don’t take care of the ball.
Larrañaga is hoping that freshman point guard Manu Lecomte recovers from a poor game against Duke in which he had six turnovers, four points and two assists.
“Hopefully, he can bounce back with a big game against Syracuse,’’ the coach said.