Its early-season momentum has faded. And likely so will its Top 25 national ranking after another lopsided home loss to an unranked team.
Following a 10-day layoff, the University of Miami men’s basketball team was thoroughly outplayed by visiting Eastern Kentucky during a 72-44 loss at BankUnited Center.
The No. 18 Hurricanes (9-2) suffered their worst loss during coach Jim Larrañaga’s tenure and most lopsided defeat since a 105-64 rout at North Carolina Jan.31, 2007.
It was UM’s worst defeat at home since another 28-point loss on March1, 1997 to West Virginia.
“We were very bad from start to finish, and they were very good,” Larrañaga said. “Our lack of focus was very clear, whether it was due to the layoff or us not respecting the opponent, there is no good reason not to play as hard as you can all the time.”
Following a win against Illinois, a ranked team on Dec.2, it appeared the Hurricanes were entering a winnable three-game home stretch.
Miami lost two of those three.
The Canes followed the first defeat, Dec.6 against Wisconsin-Green Bay, with a 70-39 win against Savannah State two days later that appeared to get things back on track.
But Friday night’s performance was downright ugly.
“We didn’t share the ball very well, we didn’t shoot very well, and we didn’t defend at all,” Larrañaga said. “They get everything they wanted. We’ve had a number of these already.
“We started out [the season] with a clear focus of working hard, and we did that. We got our defense up to one of the top 40 in the country. But over the last three or four games, it’s really not been where we’d hope for.”
Eastern Kentucky (6-4), which entered the game ranked second in the nation in steals per game, only had five, but its ability to pressure the Canes both in man-to-man and zone defenses limited the Canes to their lowest scoring output of the season and lowest since scoring 40 in a loss to Virginia last season on Feb.26.
The Colonels outscored Miami 20-2 in points off turnovers, forcing 14 and committing only nine.
“We just played with no effort and didn’t rotate on defense,” said guard Sheldon McClellan, who led the Canes with 14 points and was their only player in double figures. “We had no energy.”
The Colonels outscored Miami 45-19 in the second half, which was also a season low for the Hurricanes for points in a half.
Miami shot a season-worst 29.3 percent, going 12 of 41 from the field. The Canes made eight three-pointers but shot 4 of 16 from that range in the second half.
UM’s inside game was virtually nonexistent as Eastern Kentucky outscored the Canes 24-6 in points in the paint and outrebounded them 37-26.
Eastern Kentucky, meanwhile, hit 14 three-pointers and used a 14-0 surge in the second half, hitting four three-pointers during that run to take a 43-27 lead with 13:09 remaining. The Hurricanes finally broke the run with 10:41 left on a pair of free throws by Davon Reed.
UM went eight minutes and 27 seconds without scoring and went 10 minutes and 33 seconds without making a field goal. Reed also ended that drought with a three-pointer with 8:34 to go, but it meant little as Eastern Kentucky answered with two quick buckets to extend the lead to 23 points.
“The layoff is no excuse,” UM guard Deandre Burnett said. “We came out flat, and it showed during the whole game.”