The way the No.15 University of Miami men’s basketball team got suckered Saturday usually happens in smoke-choked pool halls at night, not in bright arenas on sunny afternoons.
UM beat ranked Illinois on Tuesday. Wisconsin-Green Bay got upset by Georgia State on Thursday. That, unintentionally, set up the Hurricanes to get hustled and outhustled by the Phoenix at BankUnited Center 68-55.
UM redshirt freshman guard DeAndre Burnett and Green Bay junior guard Carrington Love each had career highs, with Burnett scoring 21 points and Love getting 20. The 6-1 Love also had a team-high nine rebounds, two blocks and four steals.
Redshirt junior Sheldon McClellan had 16 points and eight rebounds for UM (8-1), while senior Keifer Sykes had 18 points and seven rebounds for Green Bay (6-2).
“I feel like we got complacent and started thinking about the number,” Burnett said. “Coach L [Jim Larrañaga] tells us, the number never matters. Wisconsin-Green Bay’s a great team, give them credit. They played hard. They drove to the basket. They made layups, and they just outworked us [Saturday].”
Green Bay coach Brian Wardle said: “This early in the year, you’ve got to use [upset losses] as momentum. I’m sure Miami will use it as motivation and a learning tool. When they saw our score Thursday night, that might’ve helped us coming into here. Maybe them thinking while they didn’t play well Thursday, they’re not going to play well [Saturday]. But we’ve got good young men led by our senior point guard [Sykes], who comes in with a lot of fiery leadership that helps our locker room.”
This bit of basketball Minnesota Fats got executed by a team of Wisconsin Longs, who held UM to 32.8 percent shooting from the field and 5 of 20 (25 percent) from three-point range. In the game’s most pivotal stretch, the Phoenix held UM to 0-for-5 shooting from the field and forced four turnovers during a 17-2 run over 5 minutes 47 seconds. A 31-30 possession-by-possession wrestling match turned into a near-stomping at 48-32.
“I thought we switched up man and zone as much as we could without letting them get into a rhythm from three,” Wardle said. “Our goal was to hold them to five threes or less. We know they make over nine per game (9.1). They’ve got great shooters. To see five of 20, that’s a huge number for us. We needed them to earn it from two. And we’re pretty long. We can switch ball screens, and I wanted those guards to finish over our 6-9, 6-8 long guys.”
They couldn’t, especially redshirt junior Angel Rodriguez, who shot 2 for 15 from the field, 1 for 6 from three-point range and committed three turnovers before fouling out.
Larrañaga fumed that his own long men provided inadequate defense inside.
“They’re a driving team. Very early in the game, they were able to drive it on us and get to the rim,” Larrañaga said. “Once they did that, they had tremendous confidence in their ability to keep scoring on us because there was no resistance at the rim.”
An 11-0 UM run put some drama back into the game and woke up the BankUnited Center crowd for a minute. The Canes got a scoop-score-and-one from Burnett to chop the lead to 48-37. After Burnett pulled down a defensive rebound, his three-pointer got the Green Bay lead under 10 at 48-40 with 5:41 left. He followed a McClellan free throw with another steal and layup to make it 48-43 with 5:16 left.
But UM got no closer. A reckless McClellan driving layup attempt — one of many by the Hurricanes in the second half — quickly turned into a dunk in transition by Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Alfonzo McKinnie. Two free throws by McKinnie pushed the lead back to 52-43.
From there, the visitors made free throws and layups to close out the upset.
“Miami’s going to win a lot of games,” Wardle said. “It’s a good win for us. It’s an RPI game. We beat Marquette two years ago, Marquette goes to the Elite Eight and wins the Big East. We beat Virginia last year, they go to the Sweet Sixteen, win the ACC. Maybe this is an omen for Miami. Maybe they’re in for a lot more wins and a good run.”