Four days had passed since his University of Miami basketball team squandered a 13-point second half lead to fifth-ranked Duke, and still Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga was perturbed by the team’s collapse.
Asked on Friday what he’s been working on with the team since the loss, he said, “Trying to mentally recover so I’m no longer thinking about jumping off a cliff.”
The 25th-ranked Canes had no time to wallow in the Duke loss because they have a game at noon Sunday on the road against North Carolina State, which has already knocked off Duke and Clemson, two teams that beat Miami.
The Wolfpack is averaging 90 points per game at the 19,700-seat PNC Arena and has five players in double figures. Among the biggest threats is 7-foot, 250-pound center Omer Yurtseven, an Uzbekistani-Turkish sophomore who averaged 20 points in two games last week and was shooting 64 percent from three-point range.
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“They’re playing great, and we’ve got our hands full,” Larrañaga said of Sunday’s game. “They’ll certainly be the favorite, playing in front of 19,000 fans. The crowd will go crazy. It’s a real challenge for us.
“Omer Yurtseven is a dual threat. He’s a very good low-post scorer and a terrific three-point shooter. In the post, you have to keep him from catching the ball and at the three-point line you have to close him out very quickly because he’s got a quick release and a very nice shot, very good range. Dewan Huell will start on him and will have to do a great job.”
The Hurricanes started the season 10-0 and reached No. 6 in the AP rankings, but have lost three of their five conference games — to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Duke. N.C. State is 13-6, and 3-3 in the ACC coming off a win over Wake Forest.
Larrañaga said that he was most concerned about the dramatic differences in UM players’ statistics from game to game. That has been particularly true of senior Ja’Quan Newton and sophomores Bruce Brown and DJ Vasiljevic. The coaches met with those three players to discuss ways to simplify the offense, and get more assists and consistency from them.
“Our one senior is not having the kind of year he or we were expecting,” Larrañaga said of Newton. “He’s had some good moments, but overall, a guy who’s scored 1,000 points in his career normally is averaging double figures, and he hasn’t been able to do that. Some of it may be that he’s playing with so many young guys. When you play with so many young guys, they don’t find you that easily.”
Freshmen Chris Lykes (12.4 ppg) and Lonnie Walker IV (10.8 ppg) have combined to score more than a third of UM’s points in ACC play. Walker averaged 17.5 points in two starts last week.
“At this point, I don’t feel fully like a freshman anymore, and I don’t defer too much to the upperclassmen like I did early on,” Walker said. “There’s nothing to be scared about anymore.”
No. 25 University of Miami at N.C. State
▪ When: Sunday, noon.
▪ Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.
▪ Records: UM (13-4, 2-3 ACC), NC State (13-6, 3-3 ACC).
▪ T.V./Radio: ACC Network, WQAM-560 AM.