The University of Miami men’s basketball season got started with bad news two hours before tipoff Friday.
Junior forward Kamari Murphy, an Oklahoma State transfer expected to be a major contributor, was suspended for the first three games for a violation of team rules, the school announced. He will return Nov. 20 for the second-round game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Coach Jim Larrañaga wouldn’t elaborate, saying only: “Kamari broke a team rule. It’s unfortunate.
“He’s a great kid, made a mistake, and he’s paying a very dear price. We’ll look forward to having him back after these first three games.’’
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Turned out the Hurricanes didn’t need Murphy’s tenacious defense to get past University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. After a sloppy start, Miami found its rhythm, scored 58 second-half points and rolled to an 86-59 win at BankUnited Center.
Five UM players scored in double figures, led by senior guard Sheldon McClellan with 18 points. A slimmer, quicker Ivan Cruz Uceda knocked in 16 (12 from three-point range), Davon Reed had 14, and sophomores Ja’Quan Newton and James Palmer each added 11.
Senior center Tonye Jekiri dominated the boards with 12 rebounds, 10 of them on the defensive end.
Even manager-turned-walk-on Mike Robinson got in the boxscore, sinking a three-pointer late in the game.
Point guard Angel Rodriguez had seven assists and no turnovers but struggled with his shot. He went 2 for 10 for five points and was 1 of 7 on three-point attempts.
Shaquille Hines led the Vaqueros with 18 points.
“First-game jitters, but the second half we settled in,’’ McClellan said.
UT-Rio Grande Valley coach Dan Hipsher, who spent two years as an assistant at Miami Dade College in the late 1970s, said of the Hurricanes: “Their size and strength got to us after a while. They were able to take advantage on the backboards. Sheldon McClellan’s really good, can break you down and make a hard shot when he has to. Angel I’ve known forever. He probably had one of his poorest nights. As well as he can shoot it, if he’d have been knocking them down, it would have been even harder on us. Jekiri is even bigger than he looks on film. And Newton gave them a real good spark.
“They’re an impressive group.’’
Murphy sat out last season per transfer rules and entered this year with high expectations. He is known for his rebounding, his defense, and his leadership. Teammates and coaches raved about him in the past few weeks.
McClellan called Murphy “a junkyard dog,’’ a tireless worker and among the team’s most vocal leaders.
“Love him,’’ Larrañaga said of Murphy a few weeks ago.
He will miss the next two games — Monday at home against Louisiana and Nov. 19 against Mississippi State in the opener of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (5 p.m., ESPN2).