They call him “Amp,” and on Wednesday night freshman Anthony Lawrence Jr. lived up to his nickname, giving the 17th-ranked University of Miami men’s basketball team the jolt of electricity it needed to beat Notre Dame 79-70.
Lawrence had been an afterthought of late, scoring a total of six points in the previous 10 games. But he came off the bench early against the Fighting Irish and led the Hurricanes with 18 points in 21 minutes — his best game in a Miami uniform. He made five of his six shots, including all four three-point attempts.
He entered the game for starting senior Kamari Murphy with 12 minutes to go in the first half. Lawrence, a 6-7 guard, made an immediate impact, hitting his first three shots of the night a minute after coming in. It was a sign of what was to come. When he re-entered the game in the second half, the BankUnited Center crowd of 6,819 gave him an ovation.
“I’m very, very proud of Amp,” UM coach Jim Larrañaga said. “He had gone through a period where he wasn’t playing much, yet the last few practices he was terrific. We played him at the point on the scout team. He did one heck of an imitation of [Notre Dame’s] Demetrius Jackson. I thought, ‘If he can handle the ball like that against Angel [Rodriguez], that gives us another weapon.’ ’’
Larrañaga was concerned Lawrence might be rusty.
“It was a little bit of a gamble,” the coach said. “He was so good in practice, his spirits are very, very good. He’s going to be rewarded for that.”
Lawrence, the son of former Hurricanes basketball player Anthony Lawrence Sr., had shown promise during the non-conference season with four double-digit games. But once the conference schedule got going, he dropped down the rotation. He went scoreless in six of eight Atlantic Coast Conference games and played more than eight minutes only once before Wednesday.
“I’ve been playing good in practice all week, and once I saw the first one go down I got confidence,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t get discouraged [on the bench]. Coach told me I have to be patient with him. I knew my time was going to come.”
Four other Hurricanes scored in double figures, and UM led by as many as 20 in the second half. Sheldon McClellan, Rodriguez and Ja’Quan Newton had 12 points each, and Murphy had 11. Center Tonye Jekiri grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
UM improved to 17-4 overall and 6-3 in the ACC. Notre Dame dropped to 15-7 and 6-4.
“They are really good, and hard to guard,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. “Their maturity and age showed. They’ve got men and they’re playing like it.”
But it was the youngest Hurricane who caught the Irish off guard.
“He was fabulous and really hurt us,’’ Brey said of Lawrence. “Maybe you can live with him getting some looks and you’re worried about the other guys, and he jumps up and really hurts you. He got them so confident in the first half. It’s great when you’re a young guy playing with men. He has a really nice situation, playing with such older, experienced seniors. He delivered.’’
Rodriguez, a senior, was impressed with Lawrence’s demeanor.
“The thing I like about him, whether he plays or not, you never see difference in body language,’’ Rodriguez said. “Coach gave him the opportunity, and he performed. We didn’t want to let one loss become two. We did a great job of coming out with a lot of energy. Now, we hope one win become two.’’
The Hurricanes play at Georgia Tech Sunday.
Thursday: No. 16 UM women at Boston College
When/where: 7 p.m.; Conte Forum, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
TV/radio: None; WVUM 90.5 FM.
Records: UM 18-4, 6-3 ACC; Boston College 13-8, 1-7.
Scouting report: The Hurricanes are coming off a 57-51 home loss to Syracuse in which they committed 26 turnovers. … The Eagles went 12-1 in their non-conference schedule but have lost seven of eight ACC games. They are led by guard Kelly Hughes (14 points per game, 5.7 rebounds) and freshman center Mariella Fasoula (13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds). … UM has won seven of its past eight games against BC.
FIU men at Alabama-Birmingham
When/where: 7 p.m.; Bartow Arena, Birmingham, Ala.
Records: FIU 11-11, 5-4 Conference USA; UAB 18-4, 8-1.
Scouting report: UAB is 12-0 at home this season. … UAB has committed 389 fouls, 17.7 per game, in 22 games this season. … FIU’s opponents have committed 389 fouls in its 22 games, and the Panthers are shooting 75.1 percent from the line in conference games.
Alabama-Birmingham at FIU women
When/where: 7 p.m.; FIU Arena.
TV/radio: None. Live streaming at FIUSports.com.
Records: UAB 10-10, 3-6 Conference USA; FIU 2-18, 0-9.
Scouting report: UAB leads the conference in scoring defense. But it’s last in scoring offense, which gives FIU a better chance — the Panthers’ problem isn’t as much scoring on people as it is stopping people.