Five takeaways from the Miami Hurricanes’ 78-75 overtime win over the Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday night, which improved UM’s record to 15-4 overall and 4-3 in the ACC heading into Saturday’s road game at Florida State.
▪ LONNIE WALKER IV IS PROVING TO BE AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED: The freshman guard was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, including the game-tying layup with four seconds to go in regulation that sent the game into overtime. He also had a huge block with two seconds left in overtime to prevent the Cardinals from getting off their last shot.
Walker was 9-of-18, and 4-of-9 from three-point range. He also had four rebounds, three assists, a block and two steals.
Asked what he saw when he went in for the game-tying driving layup, Walker smiled and replied: “I saw the bucket. Even before that shot, I had a couple of good layups and threes, so it was all about confidence. And I was saying to myself, `I can make that shot.’’’
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UM coach Jim Larranaga said of Walker: “Once we started conference play, he elevated his game. His game is elevated because confidence is up. At N.C. State, we ran plays for him and he delivered. He’s making a lot of good decisions. That basket he made to tie it, that was him taking over and going to the hole. He’s only scratching the surface. He can add a lot of dimensions to his game.”
▪ SAM WAARDENBURG CAN HELP THIS TEAM: One of the surprises of the night was the play of redshirt freshman Waardenburg, a 6-10 New Zealand native who had not played much this season. Against the Cardinals, he played 13 minutes, grabbed seven rebounds and had a huge crowd-pleasing block trailing the fast break.
Larranaga explained that Waardenburg, who missed a few games early in the season with a back injury, was practicing very well in December, but seemed to lose his confidence in road games at Minnesota and in the Hawaii tournament. Last week, Larranaga challenged Waardenburg to cut down on turnovers. “I told him, `You can help us if you don’t turn the ball over. You can rebound, defend, block. I told him I don’t want a single turnover in practice. He had none on Thursday. Friday no turnovers, Saturday he had one. Tonight, I told the coaches, `We’re going to use Sam because Louisville is so big’ and he gave us a huge lift.”
▪ DEWAN HUELL CONTINUES TO BE UM’S MOST CONSISTENT PLAYER: The sophomore forward had another big night, going 7-of-10 for 18 points with a team-high 12 rebounds. His tip-in dunk with 41 seconds left in overtime put the Hurricanes ahead 73=71 and they never trailed again.
“That tip dunk was an important bucket we needed,” Huell said. As for the overtime free throw that took a lucky bounce, Huell said: “God was with me on that one.”
Huell credited his hard work over the summer with his improvement this season.
▪ THE HURRICANES STILL NEED TO WORK ON THEIR FREE THROWS: Miami players have struggled at the free throw line all season, and the team has been ranked among the lowest in the NCAA in that category. They hit 71 percent overall Wednesday night, but were 5-of-10 in overtime, making the game closer than necessary.
▪ THINGS GET NO EASIER FOR MIAMI THIS WEEKEND: The Hurricanes head to Tallahassee to play at Florida State on Saturday. The Seminoles are 29-1 at home over their past 30 home games.