Known for his innovative motivational tactics, University of Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga turned to reggae singer Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy song to help prepare the 15th-ranked Hurricanes for Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest.
The honorary captain for the game is Boca Raton 16-year-old Kyle Soto, who is battling lymphoma. Larrañaga said he would use the moment to give his players a dose of life perspective that he hopes translates onto the court.
“I think our guys need to appreciate life more,” he said. “In fact, we’re going to be playing a very specific song that has a lot of meaning, and I hope that meaning will come through.”
The Canes (14-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are coming off a road win over Boston College after losing back-to-back games at Virginia and Clemson. Miami looked like it was on its way to losing a third in a row in the first half against Boston College, but it managed to pick things up in the second half and came away with a 67-53 victory.
Angel Rodriguez had been in a bit of a funk and was scoreless in the first half, but he finished with 12 points. Tonye Jekiri had 17 rebounds, and Sheldon McClellan led UM with 19 points.
“It was very important to get that win,” McClellan said. “Any time you have a two-game losing streak, you need to win no matter how ugly or how pretty.”
On Saturday, UM plays a Wake Forest team that is 1-5 in the ACC. But Larrañaga insists his team will not take the Demon Deacons lightly and will not look past them to Monday’s home game against Duke.
“A team that beat Indiana, which is undefeated in the Big 10; beat LSU with the No. 1 prospect in the country, Ben Simmons, beat UCLA, N.C. State … does that sound like a team you should look past? I don’t think so. Our guys know how good these guys are,” Larrañaga said.
He pointed out that Wake Forest ranks third in the conference in tempo.
He called Devin Thomas “a dynamic inside guy … perhaps the best low-post skilled player” in the league. He said Codi Miller-McIntyre “is the premier layup maker in this league and maybe in the country.”
Of freshman Doral Moore, he said: “When he walks on the floor, you think, ‘Oh that guy’s an NBA player. 7-1, 240, longest arms, biggest hands, runs and jumps like an NBA player. He looks like DeAndre Jordan [of the Los Angeles Clippers].’’
Saturday: No. 15 UM men vs. Wake Forest
When, where: Noon; BankUnited Center.
TV, radio: Channel 33; WQAM 560, WVUM 90.5 FM.
Records: Wake Forest 10-8, 1-5 ACC; UM 14-3, 3-2.
Scouting report: Wake Forest has lost three games in a row and five of its past six. … The Hurricanes are coming off a road victory over Boston College, following a pair of road losses against Virginia and Clemson. … Players to watch for Wake Forest include Codi Miller-McIntyre, Devin Thomas and Doral Moore.
FIU men at UTEP
When, where: 9 p.m.; Don Haskins Center, El Paso.
TV, radio: None. Live stream at utepathletics.com.
Records: FIU 10-9, 4-2 Conference USA; UTEP 11-8, 3-3.
Scouting report: Balanced scoring against top-heavy scoring. UTEP has five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by 6-4 guard Lee Moore’s 13.5 points per game, and a sixth player averaging 9.8. Meanwhile, junior guard Donte McGill (17.0 points), senior center Adrian Diaz (15.5) and senior forward Daviyon Draper (14.3) account for 64.9 percent of FIU’s scoring. … Watch the officiating — UTEP is 3-0 at home in conference play, 0-3 on the road.
FIU women vs. UTEP
When, where: 2 p.m.; FIU Arena.
TV, radio: None. Live streaming at FIUSports.com.
Records: UTEP 15-1, 6-0 Conference USA; FIU 2-15, 0-6.
Scouting report: Maybe UTEP thinks it’s playing tuneups until the Feb. 6 game against defending conference champion Western Kentucky, which is also 6-0 in conference play. But the Miners probably have been told that FIU played Western Kentucky on even terms here on Jan. 7 before losing 71-69.