University of Miami coach Jim Larrañaga has long lamented his team’s offensive inconsistency in the paint, and with that in mind the Hurricanes looked to establish their interior presence early in Tuesday’s 63-55 loss to No.9 Louisville.
Angel Rodriguez drive. Rodriguez dish. Rodriguez shot. Tonye Jekiri drive. Jekiri kick. Jekiri shot. That’s mostly how it went for the first 12 minutes, as those two combined for 12 of the Hurricanes’ first 15 shot attempts.
They missed eight of those, and Miami found itself in a 21-8 hole.
When it became clear the relentless, head-down attack wouldn’t deflate the effective Louisville zone, Larrañaga inserted Davon Reed to beat it from beyond the arc.
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Reed almost brought the Hurricanes all the way back by himself.
Not that the 6-6 sophomore could find any consolation in that.
“I couldn’t care less,” said Reed, who tied a career high with 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting. “We didn’t get a win.”
Reed hit his first seven shots, including five from behind the three-point line, proving integral in a 21-14 second half run that brought the Hurricanes within three with nine minutes left.
“Davon had a great game,” Larrañaga said. “He’s been playing very well since Christmas time.”
Reed has scored in double figures in four of the past five games, punctuating his recovery from offseason leg surgery. Rehab forced him to miss the first eight games of this season, pushing his debut back to Dec.6 against Green Bay, almost three months to the day after surgery.
Reed said he couldn’t remember a night the ball felt so good coming out of his hands. But he was a lone ray of light on what was a dim night for the Miami offense.
Take out Reed, and the Hurricanes shot just 11 for 45 (24 percent) from the field.
“We need everybody to play well,” Larrañaga said. “Not just one or two guys.”
Miami proved that after Reed’s lone miss, a three-pointer from the wing with 8:01 to play. Reed didn’t attempt another shot after that, and the Hurricanes’ comeback faltered without him.
“We had to deny him the basketball,” said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who switched his defense to a box-and-one in order to neutralize Reed.
The rest of the Hurricanes combined to shoot 1 for 13 from behind the arc, with Ivan Cruz Uceda the only one to connect. Overall, Larrañaga expects better than the 6 for 19 (31.6 percent) effort the Hurricanes registered from long range.
“We need to shoot the ball better,” Larrañaga said.
Larrañaga had a feeling his team would live or die from behind the arc after Monday’s practice. When preparing for Louisville’s zone, Miami underwent “about a 10-minute stretch” without attempting a single two-pointer.
“Guys were just launching, launching against the zone,” Larrañaga said. “But tonight, we can make better than 6 for 19 regardless. And we need to in a game like this.”
“Maybe we should have found Davon more,” he said.